C AMBODIA'S first legal gaming club since 1970 has been operating at the Holiday International Hotel since the beginning of November.
The hotel is Singaporean-owned. The gaming operation is contracted to a $15 million Indonesian company and has been set up by international Australian-based gaming managers. The gaming license was approved in March 1993.
The outfitting of the plush interior and gaming tables is still being completed and fine-tuned. "There will be a huge difference in three weeks," according to one of the Australian managers, who did not wish to be named.
At present there are three blackjack tables, two baccarat tables and two roulette wheels on one floor. The blackjack bets range from $5 to $500, roulette from $1 to $1,000 and baccarat from $50 to $5,000.
"It will be three times this size when it is completed," the manager said, adding that the first floor would itself be bigger than "nine out of ten gaming clubs in Europe."
The operation will extend up a second floor to the "VIP" lounge and the whole complex finished in six weeks.
There is still a bar to be built on the ground floor, seating to be arranged and more games added, such as keno, banks of electronic slot machines and a betting wheel that has been installed but not yet operating.
The gaming operation runs as an exclusive club, open to foreign nationals and members.
Plans for a seven-story annex to the hotel, complete with saunas, a gymnasium and a karaoke bar and nightclub have been approved, again for members.
Some in the Australian "team" have gaming experience in London, Nevada, the Caribbean including cruise ships from Miami, Sarajevo in Bosnia, Turkey (during the outbreak of the Gulf War) and cruise ships from Singapore.
They are confident that the Holiday International will be of a standard as acceptable as any other in the world, though they prefer not to compare it with others.
In gaming jargon the Holiday International is a "social club/junket facility."
Its players will be brought in on chartered flights as organized groups, principally from Asian neighbors such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand and Hong Kong.
The operation will engender business for other hotels, restaurants and tourist related markets and, they hope, will help dispel misconceptions and hesitations that people might feel about visiting Cambodia.
The Indonesian owners of the gaming operation are "very well established internationally," the manager said, operating in the Philippines and Singapore.
The croupiers are professionally trained young Malaysian nationals. 150 local Khmers are now working in many positions and training classes are being set up to train 100 more for jobs in the hotel and in the gaming rooms.
The club opens till 4am but till the "junket" players arrive on their package tours the busiest action on the tables thins out by 10pm or 11pm.
In the past week the first such package tour arrived with players from Singapore.