The Thai Embassy has denied reports that Thailand will legalize gambling, a move
that could decimate Cambodia's border town casinos.
"Nobody expects that we will have a casino in Thailand soon. On the contrary,
this government tries to suppress gambling," said Nuttavudh Photisaro, Minister
at the Thai Embassy.
The prospect of legal gambling in Thailand was cited by Greek Mythology Entertainment
Group (GMEG) as the reason for scrapping plans to build a $50 million resort and
casino in Poipet.
"Because nearly 98 percent of the gamblers in Poipet come from Thailand, once
the Thai government grants casino licenses over the next five years, Poipet will
suffer from a fall in customers," said Michael Chan King-ming, vice chairman
of GMEG, according to an August 31 story in the South China Morning Post.
In June, GMEG signed a memorandum of understanding with the Thai-based BOP Entertainment
Group to build what would have been the largest casino in Cambodia, according to
a press release from GMEG.
The statement said that the Cambodian government granted a casino license - one of
eight licenses in Poipet - to BOP, which had purchased a 42,000-square-meter plot
The new casino was to have 600 gaming tables and 200 slot machines, as well as a
five-star hotel, and was expected to take seven months to build, said the July 15
GMEG press release.
But the big plans may have been shelved due to too few customers, said Photisaro,
who doubted Poipet's gambling market could have sustained another competitor.
"I think in terms of investors, I'd wait for Las Vegas to invest in Macau rather
than come over here," he said, referring to interest from US casinos in expanding
the booming industry in the Chinese special administrative region.
GMEG invested more than $73 million in its Macau casino and in January unveiled an
ambitious bid - worth up to $700 million - to build the first casino resort complex
While Singapore undertakes its experiment with gambling and Macau reaps billions
of dollars from its casino, the gaming industry in Poipet is reportedly sluggish.
"In my opinion, things are going slow, not so much money," said a Cambodian
government official working on casino issues, on condition of anonymity.
The official would not discuss how much money was being contributed to state coffers
from operating licenses and monthly and annual tax collection, saying this information
was "very sensitive."
Despite an estimated 3,000 Thai tourists crossing the border each day and twice that
number arriving on the weekend, the official said that prospective investors in Poipet
had recently shifted their interest from casinos to hotels.
Heng Chantha, governor of Banteay Meanchey, and his deputy, Sok Sareth, said they
had not heard of plans to build a new casino or of Thailand legalizing gambling.