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Casino bill likely this year

A family walks past the NagaWorld hotel and entertainment complex in Phnom Penh
A family walks past the NagaWorld hotel and entertainment complex in Phnom Penh earlier this year. A draft law is expected to be passed in the second half of the year that aims to double the government’s revenue from the casino industry in Cambodia. Hong Menea

Casino bill likely this year

The National Assembly will likely approve a casino-management bill before the end of the year, which is aimed at doubling gambling revenues and bringing the industry on par with international standards, said a senior official from the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

Ros Phearun, deputy director of finance industry for the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said the ministry is close to finalising the long-delayed draft bill, after which it will proceed to the Council of Ministers, with approval from the National Assembly not expected to take long after that.

“We believe that when we have the law in place, we can increase our revenue by two times compared to our current revenue [of $25 million],” he said,

According to Phearun, apart from increased tax collection and international practices, the projected revenue increases can be achieved because of the sharp decline in revenues in Macau’s gambling industry, which has been affected by the Chinese government’s crackdown on corruption in the sector.

Macau, one of the world’s most popular gambling destinations, saw revenues fall by 39 per cent in March to $2.7 billion, the tenth straight month of decline, according to Bloomberg.

Phnom Penh-based NagaWorld, by contrast, saw its gross gaming revenue rise 48 per cent year-on-year, for the first quarter of 2015. NagaCorp, NagaWorld’s Hong Kong stock exchange-listed parent company, said in an unaudited report released on Wednesday that gross gaming revenues rose to $113.5 million in 2015’s first quarter, up from the $76.8 million generated in the first quarter of 2014.

Son Chhay, deputy chairman of the National Assembly’s banking and finance commission, welcomed the draft law, but said the government should issue new gaming licenses only after the law was passed.

“We have been waiting for years to have a law, which complies with international standard to manage the industry. We welcome it and we do appreciate the minister of the Ministry of Economy and Finance for the commitment shown with us during the meeting with the committee in December last year,” he said.

He said that the law should be strict and reinforce the existing ban on locals gambling. He said once the bill passed the Council of Ministers, it should take the National Assembly no longer than three months to pass it. “I think it won’t take long because the government will try to push it as they need more money to fill up their recent increase of civil servants salary,” he added.

Cambodia currently has 59 licensed casinos as of last year, generating around $25 million, a rise of 15 from 2013. Phearun told the Post in March that three new casinos in Takeo province were awaiting their operating licenses and should be operational in time for Khmer New Year.

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