Naga World is Phnom Penh’s only integrated casino and hotel complex. It is the only casino in Cambodia where tourists should go because the other Cambodian casinos on the borders with Thailand and Vietnam are not suitable and/or not available for tourists. NagaWorld, on the other hand, is all legal (Read about problems with gambling in NagaWorld later in this page). This resort is a five star hotel, Spa, meeting & wedding venue, and has several dining options. No doubt the casino is the main attraction. Naga World is owned by a company called NagaCorp which is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. NagaCorp has a licence to operate Naga World Casino up to the year 2065 and has a monopoly to operate a casino within the 200 KM radius of Phnom Penh up to the year 2035. I do not know if Cambodia has a Gaming Law to regulate gaming in the interest of the players like the Laws put in place by Macau, Singapore, and Las Vegas. Whether or not, players visiting NagaWorld are only too grateful to have a casino like that in Phnom Penh.
Recently (December 2017), NagaWorld has added an extension to the resort that is called Naga2. This is an adjacent set of buildings that house two hotels and a swanky new casino. Naga2 casino will eventually have 300 gaming tables and 2500 elecronic games (including slots) but currently is working with 200 tables and 500 slot machines. Another extension Naga3 is in the works that will concentrate on family entertainment.
Still, inspite of all the good news, I have found that the casino at NagaWorld (at least the original one) lacks something, or quite a few things. And these problems with the casino make NagaWorld less than a sum of its parts…
Bringing Macau To Phnom Penh
NagaWorld’s owners did not start so well but lately they have been trying very hard to bring the feel of Macau’s shiny integrated casino resorts to NagaWorld. They have built shopping areas, brought customer loyalty card for casino players, made slot machines compatible with loyalty cards, brought some of the newer slot games from Aristocrat, SG (WMS), and Ainsworth to the casino, and have put those slot machines in every nook and corner in the casino. Sometimes I feel like there are just too many hidden corners with slot machines, particularly those on the upper floors of the original building. One can easily understand the layout of the ground level but the upper levels are really hard to crack.
Golden Edge Rewards Program
NagaWorld has a customer/player loyalty program called Golden Edge. This membership card can be used to gather loyalty points while gambling in the casino and works at all the table games and at most of the slot machines. Players can present their membership cards when they sit down at a gaming table or when they do a cash buy-in at a gaming table. While playing at a slot machine, the card can be inserted in the designated card slot in the cabinet. One the card is presented at a table or inserted in the slot cabinet, every bet and every spin earns loyalty points. These points can be used for comps like free food or even free rooms in the hotel.
New membership cards can be obtained from the Golden Edge counter in the lobby. I even got a free Buffet Dinner coupon along with my new membership card. The buffet dinner is nice if you like Chinese food and are not vegetarian.
Slot Machines and Gaming Tables in Naga World Casino
Naga World has several gaming facilities for both public and VIP players. From their website, one gets this list:
I. Public Hall
II. Premium Hall
III. Rapid 1 and Rapid 2, both on ground floor
V. Amret Palace
VI. Jinli Palace
VII. Private Gaming Suites
VIII. Gaming in Naga2
The Public Hall is the gaming area spread on both sides of the casino lobby on the ground floor of the building and also on the upper level. The Amret Palace and Jinli Palace are somewhere on these two levels. Its all confusing. Once you get there, you will understand. I could not find a resort map anywhere in the casino or their website. Such a map will really help lost souls like myself.
The currency of the casino is US Dollar and hence one gets to play slot machines with 1 cent per like betting like in the US. Hence, slot machines machine games can be played here with a minimum bet of 1 cent (for 1 line). If you have played slot machines before, you will know that in order to win, the player needs to play all the lines in the slot machine. Slot machines offer digital multi-reel games that have 10, 20, 100, or even 500 lines. One has the option of playing a certain number of lines and bet a certain amount of money on each line. If you are playing a 30 reel game and bet 10 cents on each reel, every spin of the game will cost you three US dollars. About half of the slot machines in Naga World have a minimum bet of 1 cent, while others have 5, 10 or 100 cent (1 USD) minimum bets. Payout ratio (long term guaranteed winning percentage) of these machines is unknown, so one should be careful in betting too much money on slots. Some machines offer a guaranteed long term winning of 95% on Max Bet. Max Bet means playing all the lines with the maximum bet allowed on each line. This can be expensive and dangerous business. 95% winning is only the long term average and may not materialise while your money lasts. This also goes on to prove that the rest of the machines pay out much less than 95%. My guess is that slot machines in Naga World pay back from 80-85% of the money played as winnings. The rest is the casino’s profit. Some of the older slot machines in the casino do not have cashout-ticket printing facility. That means, one needs to call an attendant who will punch a few keys in the machine and leave you waiting for at least 5 minutes before they bring your winning in cash to you. There are plenty of attendants (pretty girls in modern outfits) around to help you with losing your money on slots. Most newer slot machines in the casino print cashout tickets automatically and those tickets can be cashed at the counter or can be used to start playing with another slot machine.
Just do not forget to insert your Golden Edge card in the machine before you start playing a slot machine game.
The casino has the following table games:
Caribbean Stud Poker
Wheel of Fortune
Tai Sai (Sic Bo)
Ultimate Texas Hold’em
I do not even know some of these games. Most gaming tables on the ground floor have minimum bets of 10 US dollars. This floor is usually crowded and it may be difficult to find an empty seat on popular games. In the upper floor gaming hall, the minimum bet is 25 USD where seats are easily available.
Free drinks like tea / coffee / soft drinks are served to players on gaming tables and slot machines, though service is a bit slow like in most big casinos. Gaming rules are a bit tricky. I noticed that in Blackjack, doubling of bet is allowed only on a few selected player hands like 9,10, or 11. Doubling on soft hands (with ace) is not allowed. Such tweaks reduce long term winning percentage for the players. So, unless you are sure of the game you are playing, take it easy. Nothing is worse than losing all your money in a casino. Phnom Penh is not Macau or Las Vegas. At NagaWorld, you should play only for entertainment and only with the money you can afford to lose in one evening.
Problems In The Casino
Tricky gaming rules is only the beginning of the problems in the casino halls of NagaWorld. A much bigger problem is the presence of non-players on gaming tables. These non-players are usually Cambodian ladies who just sit at gaming tables to beg for money from foreign tourists. I do not think locals will give them any money. So whenever they spot a foreigner on a gaming table, they will set next to them and start giving advice. They encourage or discourage foreign players from making certain bets and then claim credit whenever there is a win. When there is a loss, they laugh. The foreigner is supposed to take a hint and give a few gaming chips to the beggars. The worst part comes after you donate your chips…
Once at a gaming table, a pregnant local lady extorted a 10 USD chip from me saying that she needed the money for tuk tuk to go home. Later, after two hours I saw that lady still in the casino begging for chips from other players. At another time I was forced by an old local lady to give her a chip of 10 USD. She said she had lost everything and needed money for food. I was at a Blackjack table and was really struggling. I gave her the chip hoping that she would shut up. But once I gave her the chip, she put that chip on the table along with my bet. Then when the cards were dealt, she wanted me to play the game according to her advice. I did not take her advice which was against Basic Strategy. I lost the bet and she lost it along with me. She blamed me for the loss and demanded another 10 USD chip. I told her to get lost but also I got up from the table in total frustration.
Absence of Winners
Another problem in NagaWorld Casino is the near total absence of winners. Slot machine payouts suck and that is not unexpected but I have not seen many winners in NagaWorld even on table games. I have played there for several days over the years and for several hours at a stretch on different table games – Blackjack, Caribbean Stud Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold’em (against the dealer). I never see anyone winning anything and leaving the table. People just keep losing. The presense of beggars on gaming tables could be one reason. And adverse gaming rules (like in Blackjack) could be another. Whatever it is, I would not venture into NagaWorld casino with too much money in my wallet.
Entertainment and Dining
The casino lobby has a stage for entertainment shows that happen every now and then. The building has a Karaoke Club called Club 88 and a Pub called Darlin Darlin.Several entertainment venues are spread across the resort and many of these are inside gaming halls.
There are several restaurants adjacent to gaming areas but most have non-vegetarian food only. One gets to find an occasional veggie sandwich (on special order) and some stir fried vegetables. Points on Golden Edge card can be used to pay for food and that is a good thing. If you earn a certain number of points in a day, you can take a free breakfast for dinner voucher from the Golden Edge counter. The quality of food is good but again it is not for vegetarians.
Overall, the casino makes for a great entertainment venue to spend an evening in Phnom Penh. The Spa at NagaWorld offers some great massage packages starting at 78 USD that are great value for money. But from the gaming point of view, one needs to be very cautious.
Naga World is easy to locate. All cab, Tuk Tuk drivers know the place. Just say – Naga World. Tuk Tuk fare from the Riverfront area should be 2 US dollar max.