What Future For Sihanoukville’s Casinos?

After Internet gambling is banned, will Sihanoukville’s title as Asia’s “new gambling city” fade?

According to the Ministry of Finance and Economics report, as of March 2019, Cambodia has issued a total of 169 casino licenses, of which 91 are located in Sihanoukville. The number of new casino licenses in 2018 doubled from 2017.

With the government’s ban on online gambling, Sihnanoukville will not only lose its “spinach army”, but many casinos will also face closure due to losing their main source of income.

“How is Sihanoukville so small, how can it support so many casinos?” A casino manager told reporters, “Almost all casinos in Sihanoukville rely on online gaming to maintain their operations!”

He said that a medium-sized casino has a monthly operating cost of more than $ 100,000, including rent, employee salaries and utilities.

“Workers have to eat four meals a day and live in air-conditioned dormitories. These costs add up, and the overheads can be a lot!”

He said that most casino hotels rent rooms for long-term to online betting operators, and rental income has become the most important source of income for casinos, and to subsidize casino operating losses.

He said that compared to Poipet and Bavet, Sihanoukville gambling has higher stakes; with the border towns relying on Thai and Vietnamese gamblers respectively, the bets are relatively small, and local casinos rely more on rental income.

Regarding the Cambodian government’s $ 200 million investment in rebuilding Sihanoukville roads and other infrastructure and rehabilitating the beautiful beach resorts, the executive admitted that the prospects for city’s casinos are not optimistic.

“Building a road and covering a ditch can’t be completed in one or two months … Now many casinos are losing money. How many casinos will be supported in one or two years?”

However, a casino hotel manager emphasized that the online gambling ban would not affect its hotel business.

He said the ban did affect the hotel’s “occupancy rate”, but it does not mean that the hotel will not be able to survive and that the hotel can still attract other tourists.

Casino hotel for “tenants”

The Cambodian authorities have not made clear regulations on the business scope of online gambling licenses. Gambling operators generally believe that it is legal to engage in online betting as long as it is done on the premises of a casino, so many online investors are happy to rent casino hotel rooms at high prices.

In response, the manager denied that the casino was “sheltering” network operators or “renting” casino licenses.

He emphasized that the lease signed by the casino management and “guests” was purely for renting out rooms and did not include provisions allowing them to use the casino license.

“If the ‘Guest’ checks out, we will take back the room and rent it to the tourist.”

He supported the Cambodian government’s policy of banning online gambling and improving infrastructure, which will help reduce rents and prices in Westport, solve road damage and traffic jams, attract more health service industries, and attract more tourists to Westport.

He also hopes that the media will pay attention to and understand the actual situation of Westport casinos. When reporting the Internet gambling ban, do not let readers mistakenly believe that all casinos in Westport are engaged in online gambling.

“Although we hold an online gambling license, we do not operate … We are committed to promoting the beautiful city abroad and hope that more people will come here for tourism.”

The Gaming Law has been delayed

The promulgation of the Internet gambling ban has affected many vested interests, and in some ways government leaders have been asked to consider relaxing the ban.

Japan’s “Nikkei” reported in September that the Internet gambling ban issued by the Cambodian government may only be temporary. Cambodia may reopen internet gambling after perfecting gaming regulations.

Foreign commentators believe that Cambodia should pass the Law on Gambling as soon as possible to establish clear regulatory agencies and mechanisms to more effectively prevent and stop all types of gambling-related criminal activities, including assisting money laundering abroad.

After the “Gaming Law” is passed, it will also be able to increase the revenue of the state treasury, giving the government the ability to further develop the domestic tourism industry and upgrade infrastructure.

Chinese blogger ‘Xingang’

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