Minister of Finance Keat Chhon announced Monday the government’s new strategy for confronting gambling: If you can’t beat them, tax them.
“We cannot stop gambling, so we must collect as much tax as we can,” Keat Chhon said.
With its 14 casinos, mostly located along the borders of Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodia has become a gambling destination for its neighbors.
The government collected about $7.5 million in taxes from gambling institutions last year, and hopes to collect $10 million in revenue this year, Keat Chhon said.
“Casinos do not pay enough taxes,” he said.
The government has periodically cracked down on illegal casinos and street gambling in Phnom Penh, but its approval of the huge Naga World Casino resort near the riverfront—despite a law prohibiting casinos in the capital—has sent mixed messages to the population.
The latest ban on gambling came during the Khmer New Year, when a government directive blamed “illegal gambling” for a spike in crime.
The ban did not include the licensed betting shops around Phsar Thmei or the hugely popular Cambo Six football betting outlets.
Thousands of Thais flocked across the border to Poipet’s casinos during the Euro 2004 football tournament last month.
The number of gamblers at Cambo Six also increased at the chain’s 19 branches in Phnom Penh and one in Sihanoukville during the popular football tournament.
Heng Say, the chief administrator for Cambo Six, said the chain would pay more taxes if the reasons for imposing them are fair. He declined further comment.