Son Chhay Seeks Casino Law

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay joined a chorus of criticism Wednesday calling the casinos that are flourishing in Cam­bodia “completely uncontrolled” in the absence of a casino law.

The issue was raised on the National Assembly floor Tuesday, when Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh criticized the poorly regulated casino operations, for which no ministry ac­cepts responsibility.

“Stop passing the responsibility [of the casinos] around. We should have a casino law,” Prince Ranariddh said.

Finance Minister Keat Chhon said a law is being drafted by a team of legal experts from his min­istry and the Ministry of Interior. He acknowledged that the law has been slow in coming, but said it was a complicated matter.

Son Chhay agreed with the prince, saying that he had pushed for a casino law for a long time. He said all of Cambodia’s casinos are illegal and are allowed to operate only through government corruption. Son Chhay said that, according to its license, Naga Casino in Phnom Penh is not supposed to operate until a casino law has been passed. Eventually a loop hole granted by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture allowed the floating casino to start business as an “entertainment space,” Son Chhay said.

He estimated that Cambodia’s 15 casinos, if properly taxed, could generate up to $50 million a year for the national coffers.

“The government has no political will to expedite the creation of a casino law, because powerful people in the government are in­volved [with the gaming industry],” he said.

In the government budget for 2003, the Ministry of Finance projected that 37,670 million riel ($9.65 million) would be generated by casino taxes. That is 6,670 million riel ($1.71 million) more than the ministry projected in 2002.

Son Chhay complained that ca­sinos also encourage other social ills, such a drug trafficking and prostitution. “The casinos bring nothing good to our nation. If they could close them all, it would be great. At least there must be a law,” he said.


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