CASINO Austria is on the verge of being awarded the management contract for
Ariston's Heritage floating casino, now moored on the Tonle Sap river, industry
sources have said.
It is also understood that a second floating casino,
again apparently owned by Malaysia's Ariston company and managed by Casino
Austria, will be soon in operation in Sihanoukville.
Two other companies
holding gaming licenses - awarded before the present government were elected -
are angling for permission to open a land-based gaming club in
Sources say that up to five new Cambodian casinos are
being planned, including at least two more in Phnom Penh, possibly Siem Reap,
and the Sihanoukville scheme.
Official confirmation could not be
obtained by the Post.
Some commentators are skeptical whether Ariston can
develop the Naga Island resort as promised - one called the entire $1.3 billion
deal "a house of cards". Others say there is enough "serious" money in Asia to
support five casinos in Cambodia.
Casino Austria manages casinos in
Canberra, Cairns and Christmas Island, as well as in Europe, including Austria
where it has a state monopoly.
Sources said that Casino Austria was
already recruiting Australian staff for their Cambodian deals.
Austria does not normally invest in ownership of casinos but instead are solely
This has been taken by many as proof of Ariston's
committment to establish a big gambling interest in Cambodia.
they said that Ariston - though moving quickly to tap into the Asian gaming
industry with one, now possibly two gambling ships - are doing it on the
"They are preaching the billion-dollar story, but in reality even
two casino ships, newly outfitted, can be done on a million dollar budget," one
"There is going to be another floating casino in Sihanoukville.
There are charter ships everywhere, and it is the cheapest way of getting in
quick, cheap and first... it is also easy to pack up and leave quickly," he
Meanwhile, the refitting of the Heritage is understood to be almost
completed, and many of Phnom Penh's movers and shakers are awaiting invitations
to the opening bash.
But here too, questions have been raised by those in
The Post understands that the surveillance equipment
brought onto the Heritage consists of 12 six by six monitors and cameras that
are normally used for hotel surveillance, for example. One industry source
likened the system - as compared to systems used in Nevada, for example - as
"the difference between taking your BMW to a specialized mechanic and a
He said it was an illustration that work to get the
gambling income was being done too fast, and too cheaply.
has had experience on floating casinos in Asia - a limited time on the Cora
Princess in Hong Kong some years ago - but its Asian experience now is limited
to the Christmas Island casino, under Indonesian backing.
The scope for
Cambodian gambling is huge, according to commentators.
There would be no
problem setting up five casinos in Cambodia, according to one source, who says
that there were hundreds of millions of "gaming" dollars available to be had in