The Kingdom’s 27 casinos are set to generate about US$20 million in tax revenue for the government in 2011, a 25 per cent year-on-year increase, according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
At least one government official, however, said the lack of a regulatory regime for the casino industry prevented Cambodia collecting many times that amount.
That $20 million target was in line with estimates at the beginning of the year, May Vann, director of the ministry’s Department of Industry and Finance, said yesterday.
Year-on-year revenues jumped 23 per cent in 2010, reaching $16 million, according to MEF data.
May Vann credited the growth to Cambodia’s burgeoning tourism industry and an expansion in some economies, including that of the Kingdom. Consumers had become more confident in their spending as a result, he said.
“We do believe we can achieve our target [of growing 25 per cent year-on-year] because our revenue went up, along with the growing number of foreign tourists, and an improvement in the domestic and world economies,” May Vann said.
The biggest casino profits were made in Poipet, on the border with Thailand, and in Bavet, on the Vietnamese border, according to the ministry. Many visitors are Thais and Vietnamese who enter the Kingdom specifically to gamble.
The border conflicts between Cambodia and Thailand that dominated much of the year had not affected the casino sector, Mey Vann said, because visitors had returned in large numbers after Yingluck Shinawatra was elected as Thai Prime Minister in July.
Minister of Tourism Thong Kong said yesterday that although many visitors to Cambodia came to see cultural sites such as Angkor Wat, a small percentage, namely Thais and Vietnamese, frequented the Kingdom's casinos.
But Son Chhay, a Sam Rainsy Party member who serves in the National Assembly, said the Cambodian government was letting vast sums of tax revenue go uncollected because the industry lacked proper regulation.
He claimed that countries that laid down clear tax rules for casinos gained greater benefits overall for their economies.
“Many countries impose not less than 50 per cent of a casino’s profit. If our casinos generate around $500 million a year, that means we could be collecting at least $200 million,” Son Chhay said.
MEF chief of casino management Chrun Theravath could not be reached for comment yesterday.