Thai gamblers lose around $2.43 million (100 million Baht) in Cambodia every month,
Kanit Sapitaks, a Thai colonel, recently said.
Thai officials worry the popularity of casinos along the border puts an economic
strain on residents in both Thailand's Sakeo province and in Banteay Meanchey, he
added. Cambodians rarely benefit from the casinos, and get less cross-border business
from Thais who have racked up gambling debts, Sapitaks said.
"When people lose to gambling, it causes social problems, a poor economy,"
Sapitaks said. "The casinos cannot help to improve the living conditions of
the local people and people will be poorer."
A source at the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh, who requested anonymity, said 2,000 Thais
cross the border at Poipet every weekday and 5,000 on weekends. He said there were
no figures on how many come for gambling.
Economic losses brought on by gambling have helped fuel cross-border smuggling of
vehicles and logs, Sapitaks said. Though he said the Thai military and Royal Cambodian
Armed Forces (RCAF) have worked well together, they have failed to control the situation.
"I think that the problem is big," Sapitaks said, referring to the expansive
border. "For example, if we sleep in the mosquito net, do we know when the mosquito
Heng Chantha, governor of Banteay Meanchey province, said he was not aware that Thai
officials were concerned about gambling and added that the province's six casinos
all have Thai investors.
"The people are not forced to gamble, and I think the issue will be not affect
the relationship between the two countries," said Thong Khon, Secretary of State
of the Ministry of Tourism.
Son Chhay, opposition parliamentarian, told the Post it is illegal to operate casinos
in Cambodia because there are no laws concerning the subject.
A casino law was drafted by the Ministry of Tourism in 2000, but has never been sent
to the National Assembly for debate.
"The tax revenue from the casinos has never transparently been debated in the
National Assembly and the Minister of Finance Keat Chhon explained that the collection
was just a compromise between individual casino owners and the government,"
Chhay said that he has conducted research on casinos since 2000, and found about
80 casinos illegally operate across the country; some are owned by Thai businessmen
who share benefits with high-ranking Cambodian military officials, he said.