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.