The government expects to rake in more than $16 million in tax revenues this year from the 24 casinos operating legally in Cambodia, an increase of nearly 20 percent over last year’s revenues, according to the Finance Ministry.
Finance Ministry officials announced in January that taxes collected from casinos last year amounted to $13 million, exceeding by $500,000 the 2006 budget’s target for collections.
“I firmly believe that the casino industry will generate increasing revenues and boost economic growth,” Finance Secretary of State Chea Peng Chheang said Thursday.
Since 1999, an Interior Ministry order has restricted casino entry to foreigners to prevent Cambodian members of the public from sinking into debt.
Today, the government continues to manage the industry with caution, Chea Peng Chheang said.
“We are not encouraging the casino industry, but government policy is not to stop investment in casinos if investors are asking for it,” he went on, adding that he was unable to say how much foreign capital had been invested over the last five years.
The number of casinos in Cambodia has grown by seven in less than two years to a total of 24, and the industry currently employs 12,000 Cambodians, he said.
Local tycoon and CPP Senator Phu Kok An—who owns two casinos in Poipet at the Thai border and a third in Kandal Province’s Koh Thom district along the Vietnamese border—said that the gambling business is booming but that, if too many casinos open, market saturation will ensue.
“I think the government should limit the number of casinos based on the volume of gamblers,” he said. “If too many casinos operate, they will not make a profit.”
Michael Nen, vice president of NagaCorp, which operates Phnom Penh’s Naga Casino, said that with better management the government will collect even greater revenues from casinos.
He also feels that the industry has space to grow even more. “I believe casinos are another choice for foreigners’ entertainment besides seeing temples, museums and other things,” he said.