A little-known Vietnamese investment firm plans to build a massive $200 million mixed-use development that includes a hotel, casino and water park in the dusty Cambodian border town of Bavet through its fully-owned Malaysian subsidiary, a government official confirmed yesterday.

The first phase of the project, dubbed Empire World City, will be constructed on approximately 50 hectares of land and is headed by Vietnam’s Virtue Resources which operates through its subsidiary VR Capital Holding Sdn Bhd, a company with mining interests in Malaysia and a hotel development on the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc, according to its website.

Ros Phirun, deputy director of the finance industry department at Cambodia’s Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), confirmed yesterday that project has been granted approval by the Ministry of Land Management and Urban Planning and the Council for the Development of Cambodia.

“The government has given them approval to begin construction on the development and the company will only need to approach the MEF once it seeks a casino licence,” he said, adding that company has yet to submit casino licensing documents.

Virtue Resources and VR Capital Holding Sdn Bhd, could not be reached for comment yesterday about the development or the company’s shareholding structure. Phirun also could not provide information about the company or its funding sources citing that it did not fall under MEF jurisdiction.

Nevertheless, local media reported yesterday that the company signed two agreements last week, one worth $200 million with the global architectural firm 3Ti Progetti Asia Ltd, and the other worth $50 million to purchase the land from Cambodian landowners Mao Vanny and Choun Bony.

The project is set to be fully completed in 10 years and would also act as an online casino hub for the region, the report said.

While Phirun questioned why a Vietnamese company would invest heavily in the Cambodian casino market after Vietnam partially lifted its long-standing ban preventing its citizens from entering casinos, he said a 10-year timeline would allow the project to gauge future growth in the market.

“Slow development is not necessarily a bad thing as those that try to build too quickly can only capture the low and medium gaming segment,” he said. “A longer timeline will allow it to slowly capture the high-end market.”

“And even if it doesn’t capture the high-end market, the development could be profitable by operating online gambling websites because that is a worldwide industry,” he added.

According to the company’s website, Virtue Resources has previously signed a partnership agreement with China’s Glorywin Entertainment Group, a company that promotes gaming and junket activities across Asia, and has operated the luxury casino Chateau de Bavet since late 2015.

Phirun said that while “it is possible” that Virtue Resources purchased Chateau de Bavet, the company’s management had not notified the MEF of a new owner as it would have required the casino to renew its existing licence.

Glorywin and Chateau de Bavet could not be reached yesterday.