March 26, 2016: Cambodian government officials have given their approval to a Malaysian company’s plans to develop a Sihanoukville casino city in the seaside town, which will be the new “Macau of Southeast Asia”.
The Phnom Penh Post reported that Salient Ventures, a subsidiary of newly incorporated Malaysian firm SV International, had received investment approval on March 1 from Cambodia’s Council of Ministers to develop a Sihanoukville casino city featuring hotels and casinos – some offering Chinese-facing online gambling sites – in the city of Sihanoukville on the Gulf of Thailand.
SV International recently released a promotional video (viewable below) claiming it was in the process of “bulk acquiring every potential development lot” in the city’s West Port area and was also looking to purchase existing hotels “for renovation and equipping them with gaming licenses.”
As with most Cambodian gaming stories, legal clarity is somewhat lacking. Salient Ventures claims to have already obtained one gaming license in Sihanoukville, but SV International’s website currently lists only one gaming license in the Cambodian border town of Poipet.
Economics and Finance Ministry spokesman Ros Phirun told the Post that while the government had given its assent to SV International’s development plans, the company had yet to submit a casino license application for any Sihanoukville property. The video claims SV International expects to secure its second casino license in “three to six months.”
15 Casinos currently operating in Sihanoukville Casino City
Ly Koung, owner of the local Majestic Hotel and its associated casino, told the Post his firm had struck a partnership with Salient Ventures to steer Malaysian and Singaporean tourists to the Majestic’s casino. Koung said Salient Ventures was hoping to strike similar deals with several of the estimated 15 casinos currently operating in Sihanoukville casino city.
The video identifies “24 hour borderless online betting games” as one of the three pillars of its plan for Sihanoukville success and mentions the Golden Royal Hotel and Casino as one of its “joint effort projects.”
Last October, the Golden Royal was one of the Sihanoukville properties raided by Cambodian and Chinese authorities in search of an online fraud ring operating out of several hotels in the area. Unsure of who was being targeted, many Chinese online live dealer casino operators fled the region. Golden Royal owner Rakthanak Sambath recently complained that 90% of the Chinese staff who used to run his online casino had yet to return.
It remains to be seen how much of SV International’s “windstorm of transformation” – the government approval also grants SV International the right to operate nightclubs, massage parlors and dog racing – will actually blow over Sihanoukville during the company’s stated timeline of three to five years.