Gaming tax revenue reached $12 million in the first six months of the year, a 20 percent increase over the first half of 2014, due to a greater number of Thai nationals crossing into Cambodia to gamble, a Finance Ministry official said Wednesday.
Ros Phearun, a spokesman for the ministry, said casinos in Cambodia paid the state $12 million in taxes between January 1 and the end of June, compared to $10 million during the same period last year, while the number of licensed casinos rose from 57 to 65.
“The amount of casino tax revenue collected is dependent on the situation in the border areas. The proportion [of tax revenues] from the Cambodia-Thailand border areas is large,” Mr. Phearun said on Tuesday.
“Previously, there were problems along the Cambodia-Thailand border, so nobody came to gamble at the casinos, but currently, the situation is better,” he added, referring to the military takeover of Thailand in May last year.
Mr. Phearun said, however, that fewer people had been traveling from Vietnam to Cambodia to gamble, particularly Chinese investors who left Vietnam due to escalating tension over the South China Sea dispute.
“Those investors left the country, and so fewer and fewer guests came to Cambodia,” he said.
Vietnam’s recent efforts to build more casinos inside its own borders, and install slot machines in five-star hotels, also resulted in fewer border-crossing gamblers.
Son Chhay, an opposition lawmaker and deputy chairman of the National Assembly’s finance commission, said the state was taxing casinos in Cambodia inconsistently, missing out on at least “three or four times what the government has collected.”
“From what the [finance] minister had been telling the [banking and finance] committee of the National Assembly, they collect by negotiating with the companies. This is not appropriate. You cannot negotiate,” he said.
Mr. Phearun said the notion that casino owners were able to “negotiate” with the government over taxes was inaccurate.
“The word ‘negotiation’ that he said is incorrect. We call it a contract, which states how much individual casinos have to pay,” Mr. Phearun said, noting that the unique arrangements with each casino were necessary due to a lack of a law regulating casinos.