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Tax take up in reeling sector

Tax take up in reeling sector

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People gamble at the Ha Tien casino in Kampot province in September of last year.

Improved revenue collection techniques led to an annualised 23 percent increase in tax revenues from the Kingdom’s casino industry, according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

But insiders say the industry is facing challenges, with casinos likely to shut if they do not attract more patrons.

“We think many casinos will go bankrupt, due to fewer clients, if the government doesn’t establish policies to secure them,” said Kith Thieng, chief executive officer of Titan Casino in Svay Rieng province.

The situation would continue unless more clients were encouraged to come to the border-area casinos, he said, adding most casinos were permitted to build only in remote locations near the border, which was keeping patrons away.

Several casinos in Bavet city near the Cambodia-Vietnam border shut their doors last year.

Winn casino closed in September, while VIP casino ended its operations in November – with more closures likely to come, officials warned at the time.

Ministry of Economy and Finance figures obtained yesterday show the Kingdom’s tax revenue from 20 Cambodian casinos contributed US$16 million to state coffers in 2010, from $13 million the year previous.
Ministry secretary of state Chea Peng Chheang said the increase was due largely to better tax collection measures put in place by the ministry.

Casinos had also improved management, reducing unnecessary expenses, he claimed.

“We hope revenues will continue to increase in 2011, because investors in the sector are gaining more experience in making profits to pay for their tax obligations, and our tax officers are using better methods for tax collection,” he said.

Several casinos had closed as well as opened during the previous year, depending on the relative success of each of the business ventures, according to Chea Peng Chheang. However, yesterday he did not detail the number of casinos that were added or had shut.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said yesterday the concealment of the numbers of casinos that had closed or opened proved the government had insufficient procedures to accurately collect tax revenues from the sector.

Many casinos have obtained licences but do not keep accurate accounting records to show revenues, leading to loses for tax collectors, he claimed. “The government collects more tax revenue from casino entertainment, but it is revenue from registering for the licence, not from taxes on profit,” he said.

“If all the casino companies followed official guidelines with accounting revenues, the government would generate more than $50 million in tax revenue per year from the sector.”

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