News @ AsiaOne

All's quiet on the casino front

Casinos in Poipet turn empty since Cambodia and Thailand engaged in diplomatic row. -The Nation/ANN

Mon, Nov 16, 2009
The Nation/Asia News Network

Most their customers, Thais from Thailand's Northeast, no longer show up.

"Things have been like this for more than one week already," an employee at the Holiday Palace casino lamented.

Shuffling sounds are gone. Rows of slot machines stand idle and staff members can only look around expectantly.

Inside the main hall, attendants at baccarat tables are struggling hard to keep their last batch of customers.

"Please play with me," a female attendant said, "Please, let's continue playing".

Another attendant tried to explain that gamblers could safely return to Thailand because any border closing must be announced in advance.

"When you heard the announcement, you would still have plenty of time to go back because we are so close to the border," she added persuasively.

Thousands of Thai gamblers used to visit casinos in Poipet each day because there are no such gambling complexes on Thai soil.

Since Cambodia and Thailand became engaged in their diplomatic row over Thaksin, most gamblers have decided it's reasonable to stop going, at least temporarily.

At Grand Diamond casino, just 10 per cent of the baccarat tables were working.

Located on the other side of the road is the Tropicana, another gambling complex.

In sharp contrast to its cheerful music and brightlycoloured carpet, the place had nothing else to reflect buoyancy.

"Our last batch of customers were Taiwanese and they have left," a female attendant said.

She said all tour groups from Thailand and Taiwan have cancelled their planned trips to Cambodia because they felt uncomfortable about the Thai - Cambodian conflict.

"Our business has suffered badly," a senior attendant at Tropicana said.

Identifying herself only as "Ple", she said she did not know when the situation would return to normal.

So far, Ple said Tropicana could still struggle by because it had online baccarat for gamblers too.

"You don't have to be physically in Poipet to play," she said.

When a visitor showed up, female attendants rushed in to greet him.

"If you exchange chips now, I will open a guest room for you," one smiling attendant offered.

The visitor was clearly interested.

Later, he said, "I usually play here till midnight and then go to bed. When I wake up, I play again till noon. After that, I head back home," the Thai man in a yellow Tshirt said.

Being the most spacious casino of all, Crown Plaza looked forlorn with just a few gamblers inside.

The bright star and colourful light bulbs at Star Vegas, meanwhile, shone temptingly but to no avail.

Inside, things were quiet except for a handful of gamblers.

When asked for comment, a Thai said, "Why worry? If the border closes, I will only have to head back. Now it's still open and so I can enjoy my time here".

According to reception and security staff, only bold customers have decided to visit the casinos in Poipet as usual.

The adventurous ones, however, are clearly far outnumbered by people who think they should not come.

A Thai tour guide, Champ, said he often brought customers to the casinos in Poipet.

"But now, the number of my customers has reduced by half," Champ said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a casino owner said his business had been reeling because of Thaksin's appointment.

"But I can't do anything. I can only wait and hope that the situation will improve over time," he said.

He said he could not predict when the brisk trade would return.

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