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A chest of silver pieces and a bottle of rum

A chest of silver pieces and a bottle of rum

I F things go as planned, Cambodia's new floating casino moored in front of the

Cambodiana Hotel will open with a bang - literally. With a soft opening slated

for May 1, dozens of workers are scrambling over the entire 12,000 ton vessel

painting walls, laying hundreds of square meters of plush red carpet, hanging

glitzy curtains and installing a half dozen metal detectors to keep out cameras

and guns.

Last but not least, they're putting the final touches on a

cavernous Pirate Theme Park in the hold of the ship where fun seekers who want

to take a break from the roulette wheel can experience the excitement of

yesteryear when buccaneers roamed the seven seas in search of buried treasure.

"Its an Indiana Jones kind of thing for kids just to have fun," said

Liao Khoon Ngain, who went on to describe how visitors will sit on a mechanized

platform and be entertained by a synchronized light and sound show depicting

cannon fire and a variety of other Disneyesque representations of the likes of

Blackbeard and Long John Silver.

The ship's innards have been kitted out

to resemble a rocky coast, with furled sails hanging along the roof of what

would have been the engine room. Above the fake rocks are stage lot-like fronts

of 17th century pubs and long forgotten ports of call. The platform is on metal

tracks and will move 30 meters up and back the ship's hull giving passengers a

ride into fantasyland.

Liao, chairman of Naga Resorts, the management

company hired by Malaysia-based Ariston Ltd. to run the "floating entertainment

complex", says his company hopes to develop "a landmark in Phnom

Penh".

He says that the ship can accomodate up to 1,000 customers at any

one time. Most of these would fill the five floors of casinos at the back of the

vessel where dozens of blackjack, baccarrat and roulette tables are set up and

ready for business.

According to Naga Resort's CEO, Lim Kim Hock, "Every

floor has a different ambience."

To give a Cambodian flavor to the whole

operation, the firm hired local artists to paint the ceilings of the casino's

VIP levels 4 and 5 with scenes from the Ramayana. "This is a government project,

so we want to make sure it looks Cambodian," says Naga's Vice President S.

Nagalingam.

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