‘Entertainment’ Centers Expand Operations

The Diplomat slot machine gambling centers have expanded their operations in Phnom Penh with the opening of a new establishment on Sihanouk Boulevard.

The latest and third Diplomat center, located across from the Lucky Market, opened about two months ago, said the manager of the new center, who identified him­­self only as Raj.

While the front of the building is a coffee shop, behind frosted glass doors is a red carpeted room with bright lights, a bar and electronic slot machines.

“It’s not a casino, it’s an enter­tain­ment center,” said Raj, whose business card says he works for Dip­lomat Technology Co Ltd.

“It’s not a licensed casino. They aren’t giving out licenses,” he said, ad­­ding that the centers are owned by a Malaysian company, but he declined to reveal its name.

Video gambling has largely been banned in Phnom Penh since 1998, when police cracked down on casinos in the city center, with the exception of the Naga­Corp casino.

The Diplomat, however, began operating two electronic gambling centers last year—one on Moni­vong Boulevard and another near the Olympic Stadium.

Raj said the new Diplomat casino gets about 10 clients per day and evening is the busiest time.

Yao Jialin, manager of the Diplo­mat center near the Olympic Sta­dium, which serves as the head of­fice, said the majority of customers are Japanese, Chinese and Kor­ean, but each center has regular Cam­bodian customers. He said he didn’t know what the average player spends and de­clined to reveal how much each center makes.

Malaysian company Ariston Sdn Berhad, which owns Naga­Corp, signed a 20-year agreement with the government in 1995, giving the company the sole right to run gambling facilities in Cam­bo­dia in exchange for some $1.3 billion in development projects.

Naga spokesman Michael Nen said NagaCorp does not own the Dip­lomat centers but could not say whether Ariston did.

“I have to look into that,” he said Tuesday.

Ariston representatives could not be reached for comment.

   (Additional reporting by Nhem Chea Bunly)

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