A Cambodian government official has reiterated that casino developments are not permitted in the “area” of Angkor Wat (pictured), in Siem Reap, which gives its name to a city and province in northwest Cambodia.
Hong Kong-listed casino investor NagaCorp Ltd had said in its interim results filed on August 27 that it was planning to “explore viable and profitable IR development in [the] Siem Reap and Sihanoukville areas”.
NagaCorp has a long-lasting casino monopoly for Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, and immediate surroundings.
The term “IR”, or integrated resort, is commonly used in the gaming industry to describe a large-scale complex featuring a casino as well as tourism and conference facilities. The term is sometimes also used to describe a resort with the latter features, but no casino.
NagaCorp did not say that its interest in Siem Reap and in Sihanoukville, as tourism markets, involved casino developments.
The city of Siem Reap is only a few kilometres south of Cambodia’s UNESCO World Heritage site Angkor Wat, which prior to the pandemic was a popular attraction for foreign tourists.
On Monday the Phnom Penh Post newspaper quoted Mey Vann, a senior official at the country’s Ministry of Economy and Finance, as saying, regarding NagaCorp’s aspirations for Siem Reap: “I know nothing about it, nor do I know what point of reference they are coming from, but our laws bar casinos from Siem Reap’s Angkor area.”
The official was further quoted stating: “If the company wants to develop a [non-casino] IR business, it will have to apply for a licence from the Ministry of Tourism.”
The news outlet then cited tourism ministry spokesman, Top Sopheak, as saying he had also been unaware of NagaCorp’s ambitions. But the official added that the ministry was keen on IR investments in Siem Reap province.
“I hadn’t been briefed on this particular matter, but anyone who wishes to open a resort,” with associated facilities for meetings, “must register with the Ministry of Commerce before applying for a licence at the Ministry of Tourism,” the Phnom Penh Post quoted the tourism official as saying.
Casino services firm and hotel operator Macau Legend Development Ltd has also expressed interest in developing an “integrated resort” at Siem Reap. In December, it extended the deadline on an effort to purchase land for that purpose, and in June this year, announced a further delay, pushing back the deadline for such deal to June 2021.
The coastal city of Sihanoukville has grown rapidly in recent years, spurred significantly by Chinese investment in real estate projects, some of them linked to gaming, according to media reports.
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