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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thailand dismisses gaming reports

Thailand dismisses gaming reports

The Thai Embassy has denied reports that Thailand will legalize gambling, a move

that could decimate Cambodia's border town casinos.

"Nobody expects that we will have a casino in Thailand soon. On the contrary,

this government tries to suppress gambling," said Nuttavudh Photisaro, Minister

at the Thai Embassy.

The prospect of legal gambling in Thailand was cited by Greek Mythology Entertainment

Group (GMEG) as the reason for scrapping plans to build a $50 million resort and

casino in Poipet.

"Because nearly 98 percent of the gamblers in Poipet come from Thailand, once

the Thai government grants casino licenses over the next five years, Poipet will

suffer from a fall in customers," said Michael Chan King-ming, vice chairman

of GMEG, according to an August 31 story in the South China Morning Post.

In June, GMEG signed a memorandum of understanding with the Thai-based BOP Entertainment

Group to build what would have been the largest casino in Cambodia, according to

a press release from GMEG.

The statement said that the Cambodian government granted a casino license - one of

eight licenses in Poipet - to BOP, which had purchased a 42,000-square-meter plot

of land.

The new casino was to have 600 gaming tables and 200 slot machines, as well as a

five-star hotel, and was expected to take seven months to build, said the July 15

GMEG press release.

But the big plans may have been shelved due to too few customers, said Photisaro,

who doubted Poipet's gambling market could have sustained another competitor.

"I think in terms of investors, I'd wait for Las Vegas to invest in Macau rather

than come over here," he said, referring to interest from US casinos in expanding

the booming industry in the Chinese special administrative region.

GMEG invested more than $73 million in its Macau casino and in January unveiled an

ambitious bid - worth up to $700 million - to build the first casino resort complex

in Singapore.

While Singapore undertakes its experiment with gambling and Macau reaps billions

of dollars from its casino, the gaming industry in Poipet is reportedly sluggish.

"In my opinion, things are going slow, not so much money," said a Cambodian

government official working on casino issues, on condition of anonymity.

The official would not discuss how much money was being contributed to state coffers

from operating licenses and monthly and annual tax collection, saying this information

was "very sensitive."

Despite an estimated 3,000 Thai tourists crossing the border each day and twice that

number arriving on the weekend, the official said that prospective investors in Poipet

had recently shifted their interest from casinos to hotels.

Heng Chantha, governor of Banteay Meanchey, and his deputy, Sok Sareth, said they

had not heard of plans to build a new casino or of Thailand legalizing gambling.

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