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Gov’t to mull its ban on gaming

As neighbouring countries are increasingly looking to loosen gambling restrictions for their citizens, the Cambodian government said yesterday it is considering the possibility of someday following suit.

Pointing to Vietnam, where a draft law to legalise gambling is reportedly in the works, Ros Phirun, spokesman for the Ministry of Economy and Finance’s gaming and casino department, said yesterday that the government is investigating the potential impact of doing the same for Cambodian citizens.

“We have thought about Vietnam legalising it. Gambling nowadays is a worldwide industry, not just in one country or two. It is an international industry. So now we too have to internationalise the gambling industry. But in order to do that, we have to get the laws in Cambodia finished.”

In June, the Post reported that a new draft of Cambodia’s law on the gambling and casino industry was being drawn up and could be completed as early as the end of this year. The draft is expected to grant the Ministry of Economy and Finance stronger investigative powers as well as regulate the currently underground online gambling scene.

In Vietnam, meanwhile, the government is moving quickly towards regulations similar to those of Singapore and Macau in an effort to draw gambling tourists to the country and collect more tax revenue.

“Vietnam changing its laws will impact Cambodia for sure. As you can see since Singapore and other regional countries have done the same,” Phirun told the Post yesterday.

“This industry has been developing in Cambodia for a very long time, and in order for Cambodia to face the challenges ahead we must get the gambling law done – especially with regional integration, we have to be ready.”

Tok Kimsay, an adviser to the Royal Group-owned Titan King Casino in Bavet town, said the local gambling industry was becoming increasingly concerned about a future decline in players from Vietnam.

“Just at Bavet, there are between 500 to 1,000 Vietnamese gamblers coming to play here every day,” he said. “If their government allows the investors to invest in the casino industry, there will be the big trouble for us.”

Kimsay said he was not aware of any move to legalise gambling for Cambodian citizens.

Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party spokesman Yim Sovann condemned the possibility of legalising gambling for Cambodian citizens yesterday, saying it would exacerbate the country’s poverty problems and only benefit the super rich.

“It has a lot of consequences such as suicide and increased poverty because only a handful of powerful people will receive the profits, while the rest of the nation will have nothing,” Sovann said, calling for public and expert consultation on the proposed draft gambling law.

“They should not legalise, but instead concentrate on the casino projects that earn a lot of money but provide less revenue to the state in tax.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING MAY KUNMAKARA

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