State revenue from commercial gambling in Cambodia fell woefully short of expectations in the first half of 2022, even after the government started a push in early November towards the full resumption of tourism and other socio-economic activity.

Figures from the Ministry of Economy and Finance’s Commercial Gambling Committee of Cambodia (CGCC), obtained by The Post, show that as of June 30, only 20 of the more than 200 casinos licensed in or after 2021 were in operation, which pushed down first-half state revenue collection from the sector to just over eight per cent of the amount required by the budget law.

The Law on the Management of Integrated Resorts and Commercial Gambling (LMCG) – promulgated in November 2020 – requires that casinos renew their licences every year.

The budget law requires 174.2 billion riel ($43.55 million) in state revenues from commercial gambling. The CGCC notes that state revenues from lotteries and raffles ended up at about 76 per cent of the segment’s required amount.

Ministry deputy director for financial industry Ros Phearun told The Post on July 11, that without a fuller recovery in tourism, not much progress could be made in the commercial gambling sector over the first half.

“We’ve seen that local tourists are taking trips, but international tourism remains limited, on which the commercial gambling sector depends, especially in border areas with Thailand and Vietnam that have only just recently opened. Commercial gambling operations have just resumed, leading to slow revenue collection,” he said.

Phearun affirmed that the CGCC and broader government would push for the strict implementation of the LMCG as casinos resume operation after a Covid-19 hiatus, including the stringent conditions related to licensing.

He disclosed that of the more than 200 licensed casinos, 129 had reapplied for their licences this year, and that the CGCC’s General Secretariat had issued 13.

Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan told The Post that he welcomed the resumption of the casino sector as it would attract more tourists from neighbouring countries.

“The resumption of casino operations will lure more tourists to gamble, which is a driving force for the tourism sector,” he said.

The prominent Star Vegas Casino in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town, operated by Donaco International Ltd, also just reopened on June 18, after the Cambodian-Thai border reopened as normal.

The number of international arrivals to the Kingdom plunged 84.96 per cent from 1,306,143 in 2020 to just 196,495 in 2021, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

Meanwhile, 4.66 million domestic trips were tallied last year, down by 35.5 per cent, while foreign residents accounted for 0.28 million, down by 84.6 per cent. Outbound Cambodian tourists dropped by 90.6 per cent year-on-year to 30,517 in 2021, and international tourist departures fell by 86.6 per cent to 183,608.