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Malaysia's Richest 2018: How 'Accidental' Casino Billionaire Chen Lip Keong's Cambodia Bet Paid Off by Muhammad Cohen

When Chen Lip Keong won Cambodia's first casino license in 1994, he had hardly ever stepped inside a casino. He'd been to Malaysia's Genting Highlands once on a date in the 1970s and visited Las Vegas once as a tourist. Casinos are "not in my blood; I'm not a gambler," he says. Yet today, renowned casino architect Paul Steelman calls Chen "one of the most powerful creators of these properties in the world."

This self-proclaimed "accidental" gambling billionaire is the chief executive and majority shareholder of NagaCorp. Its NagaWorld casino-resort complex in the capital Phnom Penh boasts 1,700 guest rooms, 600 gaming tables and more than 5,000 gaming machines. Despite his gambling aversion, he bet $369 million of his own money to build Naga2, an opulent twin-tower extension opened in November that features nine floors of guest rooms for high rollers with adjoining private gaming rooms. And soon there'll be a 2,200-seat theater where Chen is aiming to host the likes of Lady Gaga, a favorite of his. The addition makes Cambodia and NagaWorld first-rank contenders in Asia's $51 billion casino market.

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