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although the enclave of Macau — often dubbed the “Las Vegas

edit:casino time:2019-01-29

Real estate prices in the town have skyrocketed in the past two years, increasing from US$500 per square meter to five times that for homes close to the sea, said real estate firm CBRE.

At the Oriental Pearl Casino, business is brisk. Ten Chinese men sit silently while their cards are shuffled across the green felt table, chain-smoking under the neon glare from a nearby bank of “50 Dragons” slot machines.

China has also sought high-profile military exchanges, fueling speculation that it wants to build a naval base off the Cambodian coast in Koh Kong province, north of Sihanoukville, with ready access to the flashpoint South China Sea.

“It’s not so bad if I lost tonight,” said Dong Qiang, adding: “I will try my luck tomorrow.”

But Sihanoukville is becoming a popular alternative. There are around 50 Chinese-owned casinos and dozens of hotel complexes under construction.

“They bring money to invest because they see our potential,” Yun Min said.

Preah Sihanouk’s governor Yun Min said US$1 billion has been invested by Chinese government and private businesses between 2016 and last year.

He also returned from a recent trip to Beijing with the promise of US$588 million in aid and an increase in bilateral trade to US$10 billion by 2023.

And China’s largesse is none more apparent than in Sihanoukville, a nexus of Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” infrastructure plan, which includes a planned highway to Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh.

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