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Casino junkets increasingly opening shop in Cambodia

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Patrons play at the Lucky Ruby Border Casino in Kampong Ro district’s Prey Vor village at 6am on December 12, 2015. POST PIX

Casino junkets increasingly opening shop in Cambodia

Cambodia is becoming an attractive destination for Macanese junket casino operators to set up shop, as the market is currently rapidly growing while the junket market in Macau is shrinking, according to Morgan Stanley Asia Ltd analysts.

Praveen Choudhary and Jeremy An of Morgan Stanley Asia visited Macau last month and issued a memo that revealed that the junket operations that they saw were doing better abroad than locally.

“Growth is mainly coming from the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia, while [South] Korea and Australia are not doing so well,” the two analysts were quoted as saying on Macau-based gambling website GGR-ASIA.

“For the junket operators we met, overseas business is growing faster than in Macau, but not at the expense of Macau.”

Junkets are trips offered to VIP Casino customers for travel to, and play at, a particular casino.

Macau’s ‘big four’ set for Kingdom

Hong Kong listed casino operator NagaCorp Ltd, the parent company of NagaWorld in Cambodia, said in its 2018 report that it expects all four of Macau’s mega junkets will operate in Naga2 by this year.

It did not identify the four junket operators it was referring to, but the firm said that the four contributed 70 per cent of Macau’s total VIP rollings.

“Our increasingly competitive VIP services are attracting an increasing number of junket operators, and we expect to open further junket rooms in 2019,” NagaCorp said in its report, adding that the aggregate revenue from external customers brought in through junkets contributed at least 10 per cent of the firm’s total revenue last year.

The gambling news website GGR-ASIA reported last month that a Macau gambling junket investor Tak Chun Group plans to open a VIP gaming club at NagaWorld this month.

It also reported that Suncity Group and Guangdong Group will begin their operation in NagaWorld.

Cambodia granted 52 licences to casinos last year, bringing the total awarded to 150 at the end of last year, thanks largely to a surge in gambling businesses in the Kingdom’s Preah Sihanouk province.

Negative consequences

The figures show a 53 per cent increase of number of licensed casinos from the end of 2017, with 98 in the country.

A figure from the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the casino and gambling business regulator in Cambodia, revealed that there are 88 casinos in the coastal province alone.

A Representative from the ministry’s General Department of Financial Industry could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Transparency International Cambodia executive director Preap Kol on Monday said the increasing number of casinos could generate tax revenue and create more job opportunities for the country, but added that there are negative aspects which are cause for concern.

He continued that a flood of gambling tourists and investors will bring negative consequences if law enforcement is not strong.

“The biggest risk regarding the increasing inflow of casino businesses is the issue of money laundering,” Kol said.

Global money-laundering watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force, on February 22 once again placed Cambodia on its “grey list” of nations.

“Through the casino business boom we could also be more vulnerable to drug smuggling, social instability and many other issues,” Kol added.

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