Sihanoukville’s Winner’s Club eyes local market [video]

Sihanoukville’s newly opened Winner’s Club is seeking to take advantage of the local expatriate market and provide a lower-key form of entertainment than the city’s glitzier casinos.

In this week’s Face-to-Face, owner Gary Tham tells us about his latest venture and updates us on developments in Cambodia’s coastal casino town.

AGBrief  0:03 Are tourist numbers increasing in Cambodia?

Gary Tham  0:32  Cambodia was the first in Asia to open up its door, so the number of tourists is climbing again, which is good news. In terms of  the gaming industry it’s not that pleasant at the moment because people have been locked in for a long time and it takes time for people to get used to the lifestyle again. People are looking for holidays rather than entertainment at the moment.

AGBrief  1:29 Sihanoukville was a big destination for Chinese players and tourists. How is the town faring without them?

Gary Tham  1:42  There are still Chinese tourists around and they do still contribute to quite a percentage of the general revenue in town. But China still has a COVID outbreak at the moment, so getting people in from China, and out back to China, has proven to be really, really difficult. Some are saying that airfares are as much as $5,000 to $10,000. 

AGBrief   2:27  We’re hearing  that frequent Chinese gamblers  to Macau are being denied visas. Are you hearing anything like that in Cambodia?

Gary Tham  2:42  Not so much that they are being denied, but rather that they are not able to exit due to the lockdown.

AGBrief   2:54  So if you went onto a casino floor in Sihanoukville now what would it look like?

Gary Tham  3:00  It’s not as crowded as it used to be, but the floors are at about 50 percent occupancy. But the crowds are different. The majority of the crowds are now the middle income groups, and the lower income groups, and they have a good mix of Indonesians, Malaysians, Koreans, with fewer Chinese. 

AGBrief   4:35  Please tell us about your new venture.

Gary Tham  4:42  I own a small casino myself now, known as the Winner’s Club.  The target segment is the low and middle income groups. People come by to enjoy playing with a group of friends rather than coming in to play their fortune. People come in for free beers, free food. And they just play for fun. When the time is up, they move on back to work or go home and sleep. We have three tables and 18 machines. 

AGBrief   5:35  Whereabouts is it?

Gary Tham  5:41  It’s to the north side of Sihanoukville. We have a very good community of Vietnamese Indonesians, and working Chinese  people. So we have a pretty decent group of clientele around the area. 

AGBrief   6:23  So far how is it going?

Gary Tham  6:50  So far, so good. 

AGBrief   6:58  When did you actually start?

Gary Tham  7:01  In April. So it’s not long, it’s brand new.

AGBrief   7:05  Do you think there’s more opportunity for this kind of small, localized club around the area?

Gary Tham  7:17  From my perspective, I think that’s the way to go at the moment. Given the fact that people do tend to spend less on entertainment, and they tend to spend more on food, and leisure. So I guess, small businesses like mine need to find a way to adapt and fit in so that people will feel good. They have a good time.

AGBrief   8:18  We wish you all the very best with that. How has Sihanoukville changed since the lockdowns?

Gary Tham  8:37  It’s beautiful now. It’s just a wonderful place to be. The roads are all asphalt, so you have wide roads, the sewer system has improved, there is no more flooding. The public utilities, for example, garbage collection, have all been ramped up by a private entity, so you don’t smell trash around town anymore. You don’t get flooding and we’ve got traffic lights. So it’s getting better.