14 Chen Lip Keong
FOUNDER, CONTROLLING SHAREHOLDER AND CEO
POWER SCORE: 1,393
POSITION LAST YEAR: 18
CLAIMS TO FAME
Created NagaWorld, the Mekong region’s largest integrated resort, in Cambodian capital Phnom Penh
First casino enterprise listed on the Hong Kong stock market
Building a new casino hotel outside Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East
Founded as a casino on a barge, NagaWorld entered the big time with its Naga2 extension, opened in November last year. Adding the Paul Steelman-designed twin towers produced a world class complex with 1,700 guest rooms, 600 gaming tables, 5,000 EGM positions, retail by China Duty Free and a world class theater that put Phnom Penh on the regional gaming map. Junkets from Macau and beyond visit frequently and Naga affiliate Bassaka Air flies in mainland China tourists in cooperation with China International Travel Services.
Dr Chen Lip Keong, a Malaysian who like Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad studied medicine but found his calling elsewhere, founded and runs Naga. A successful property developer at home, he came to Cambodia as a part of Mahathir’s Prosper Thy Neighbor policy, hoping to drill for oil offshore. He struck a 70-year casino license in Phnom Penh including a 40-year monopoly within a 200 kilometer (124 mile) radius, while Cambodia was an investment pariah, still picking up the pieces from Khmer Rouge genocide and civil war.
After moving onshore in 2003, Dr Chen took NagaCorp public on Hong Kong’s stock exchange in 2006, the first casino company listed there and the first business in Cambodia listed anywhere. When banks wouldn’t offer reasonable financing for Naga2, Dr Chen bet US$392 million of his own money through a convertible bond offering and now owns 66% of NagaCorp, valued at US$2.6 billion. Total capital expenditure on NagaWorld is an estimated US$1.5 billion and this year’s revenue is expected to rise 48% to US$1.4 billion, according to Union Gaming.
Naga hopes to duplicate its Cambodia success in another frontier market, Russia’s Far East. It’s building a US$350 million casino hotel in the Primorsky Entertainment Resort City outside Vladivostok, expected to open in 2020. And in Phnom Penh, look for Naga3.
For the full list of 2018 Asian Gaming Power 50 winners, click here.