Poipet Casinos Cash in Over Khmer New Year

Thai gamblers flooded Cambo­di­an casinos in Poipet over the Khmer New Year weekend, but bus­iness was slow at casinos on the Vietnamese border in Svay Rieng province and on the border with Thailand in Koh Kong prov­ince, gaming tycoons said Tues­day.

“Khmers and Thais celebrated the same New Year days and they enjoy gambling,” CPP Sen­a­tor Kok An, owner of the Crown Ca­sino and Hotel in Poipet, said Tues­day.

“For three of the New Year days my casino was full,” Kok An said, adding that an estimated 10,000 visitors from Thailand pass­ed through the doors of Poi­pet’s six casinos.

The gaming business in Poipet will continue to grow if authorities continue to facilitate the smooth ac­cess of Thais to Cambodian ca­si­nos, he said, adding that the government’s commencement of a resurfacing of the road between Si­em Reap and Poipet is much ap­preciated by the casino business.

Business, however, was not as good in Svay Rieng’s Bavet commune and at Chrey Thom commune in Kandal province, where a second Crown casino has been built on the Vietnamese border.

Gambling at Chrey Thom was particularly poor as visitors are put off by the lack of a bridge span­ning the Bak Dai river that sep­arates Vietnam from Cambo­dia, Kok An said. The bridge will not be completed until 2007, he add­ed.

CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat, owner of the Koh Kong Interna­tion­al Casino and Resort, said Poi­pet swallowed up most of the Thai gambling trade during the New Year.

Poipet is better positioned in re­lation to several large Thai prov­inces, Ly Yong Phat said, adding that the number of holiday bettors in Koh Kong was little more than a regular weekend’s trade.

“I haven’t seen the figures yet but I know that they are the same as usual,” he said.

Cambodia currently has 19 ca­si­nos in Phnom Penh, Pailin and Si­hanoukville municipalities and in Banteay Meanchey, Kandal, Svay Rieng and Koh Kong prov­inces.

According to Finance Ministry documents, in the 11 months lead­ing up to November 2005, the government collected $9.1 mil­lion in tax from casinos, compared to $9.2 million for the entire 12 months of 2004 and $7.4 million in 2003.

The Ministry of Finance has al­so licensed 10 companies in Phnom Penh and three companies in the provinces to operate electronic gambling machines. Each company paid $20,000 for the license and must also pay a monthly fee of $5,000 for each location where they operate gambling machines, according to the Finance Ministry documents.

It is illegal for Thais to gamble in Thailand, and the country has tried to discourage Thais from com­ing to Cambodia to do so. Cam­­bodians are forbidden to gamble in casinos.

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