pailin – Business hours have been extended at the border here, obliging Thai gamblers seeking entertainment at two Cambodian casinos, an official said Monday.
Now the normal hours run from 7 am to 6 pm for all general cross-border traffic between the two countries at this regional outpost, said Khuon Sean, chief of the checkpoint on the Cambodian side. There is also a special 30- minute window from 9 pm to 9:30 pm, which allows for hundreds of Thais to cross, he said.
On weekends, as many as 700 people cross the border, nearly all of them Thais destined for the casinos—a number confirmed by two other casino officials.
“Most people come on Saturday and Sunday,” Khuon Sean said. “And most come to gamble at the casinos.”
Some come by shuttles provided by the Flamingo and Caesar International casinos, but others arrive by taxi. Bangkok is just a few hours’ drive from this checkpoint—which is only a regional crossing and will not allow land crossings for non-Thais or non-Cambodians.
“So no tourists,” he said.
Pailin and Phnom Penh officials require that casino operators in Pailin improve the roads from the Thai border, through Pailin, and on to Battambang town.
Gambling is illegal in Thailand, so casinos on the Cambodian side of the border have become increasingly popular. But not for the Thai government, which wants to discourage its citizens from gambling. They say gambling causes more crime and drains the country’s economy of hard currency.
Cambodian critics of border casinos charge that a lack of regulation can lead to money laundering and drug trafficking.
Thai and Cambodian officials are in the midst of negotiations to extend the daily closing time at all border crossings from 5 pm to 10 pm. While the extension of hours would ostensibly increase cross-border trade between the two neighbors, critics warn against it, saying the casinos would be harmful to economic development in Thailand.