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Thai gamblers drop after coup

People pass a casino in the border town of Poipet
People pass a casino in the border town of Poipet. Casinos have seen a downturn in Thai patrons since the coup last month. HIN PISEI

Thai gamblers drop after coup

The number of Thai visitors crossing the border to place bets at Cambodian casinos has fallen since that country’s military staged a coup late last month.

Kim Ledaro, managing director of Crown Resorts Co, which operates three Crown-branded casino resorts in Bantey Meanchey province’s Poipet town, said there had been a 40 per cent decline in visitors since May 22, when the Thai military announced that it was taking over the running of the country. The coup followed six months of political turmoil.

“On average, we receive more than 200 [Thai] visitors per day, but now the number has dropped to only a little over 100,” Ledaro said.

“Maybe it is because they are concerned for their security, which causes them to want to stay at home.”

Almost 99 per cent of Crown Resort Co’s patrons are Thai, according to Ledaro.

Statistics from the Poipet International Checkpoint show the number of people passing through the border crossing per day had declined from an average of about 1,500 prior to the coup to about 700 yesterday.

The chief of the Poipet checkpoint, Ang Vannak, said that he was wary of the decline and its effect on border-town businesses.

“Business activity has slowed since fewer tourists and casino visitors have been travelling. They usually come with money to spend in our country, so when they do not come, it makes business harder for people here,” he said.

A sustained lull in the number of Thai gamblers has already resulted in one casino operator folding its business in the border town of Pailin.

In January, Entertainment Gaming Asia, a subsidiary of Macau gaming giant Melco Group, announced that it was walking away from its Pailin casino operation, which opened in May 2012. The firm wrote off its initial $2.5 million investment in the venture, citing a failure to lure gamers from across the border.

Ros Phirun, spokesman for the Ministry of Economy and Finance’s casino division, said that declining Thai visitor numbers at border casinos would not have a lasting impact on Cambodia’s economy.

“Yes, casinos at the border depend on Thai gamblers for income; if the number of Thai gamblers decreases, it automatically means less income to Cambodia,” he said, adding that Cambodian casinos generate about $25 million in domestic revenue annually.

“[But] income from the casino industry is relatively small compared to income from other industries, which make the impact on the whole economy small.”

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