Proposed Vietnamese Law a Threat to Cambodia’s Casinos

Cambodia’s foreigner-dependent gaming industry could come under threat if Vietnam passes a law allowing its citizens to gamble in their home country, an official at the Ministry of Economy and Finance said Wednesday.

Many of Cambodia’s 57 casinos are located along the country’s long border with Vietnam—where gambling is outlawed to its own citizens—and host droves of Vietnamese gamblers every day.

But a law up for a vote in Vietnam’s National Assembly in November proposes to allow its nationals to gamble on their own side of the border, said Ros Phirum, spokesman for Cambodia’s Finance Ministry.

“Cambodian casinos rely heavily on Vietnamese and Thai people. If Vietnam allows its people to play, it will be a threat to Cambodian operators,” he said.

Mr. Phirum said that while Cambodia’s gaming industry is expected to rake in $25 million this year, up from $22 million in 2013, the sector is still vulnerable.

“In terms of numbers, we have more casinos than other countries like Macao, but the size of our casinos cannot be compared because ours are small and operate unstably, which leads to bankruptcy.”

And in a report on Cambodia’s casino sector released Monday by NagaCorp Ltd., which operates Phnom Penh’s NagaWorld casino, Hong Kong-based firm Political and Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd. said a relaxing of Vietnam’s gaming regulations would necessitate greater competition among its neighbors.

“In gaming there could also be more regional competition if governments like those in Vietnam liberalize their own rules in an attempt to develop a domestic gaming industry,” the company says in the report.

Operators of Cambodian casinos along the border said Wednesday the proposed Vietnamese law poses a serious threat to their business.

Vlad Aika, general manager of Lucky89 Casino and Resort in Svay Rieng province, said his casino entertains between 300 and 400 customers per day, and more during the Chinese and Vietnamese new-year holidays.

“All our customers are Vietnamese. I have never seen another nationality. If Vietnamese can gamble in their country, of course it will be bad for us,” Mr. Aika said.

“Also, Bavet [City] has nothing—just bars and crack—but Hanoi, for example, has more to do.”

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