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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thais drop millions per month in border casinos

Thais drop millions per month in border casinos

thai.jpg
thai.jpg

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

comes in?"

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.

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.

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