Will Cambodia’s Betting Business Be Able to Get Back on Track After the Pandemic?

Cambodia's betting business is trying to make a comeback and expects to welcome 1 million international tourists to help revive its economy.

Most businesses worldwide suffer huge losses during the pandemic and Cambodia is no exception. Seeing the pandemic as less risky, the ASEAN country’s betting business seems to be having difficulties getting back on track, according to the government’s latest data.

Cambodia has been one of the first nations to again open its borders to tourists and neighbouring countries. However, the government seems not to be happy to still see a significant scarcity in the number of tourists visiting the country.

The ASEAN country has over 200 casinos which have a licence to operate since 2021. However, only 20 of these betting business are operational. As a consequence, Cambodia initially shut down its land-based casinos in March 2020. The country’s commercial gambling plummeted during the first half of 2020.

Cambodia’s Betting Business’ Slow Recovery

Cambodia’s casino industry generates the country KHR174.2 billion in revenue, equivalent to US$43.55 million each year, based on the government’s budget directives.  This is called the Law on the Management of Integrated Resorts and Commercial Gaming (MIRCG), implemented in November 2020.

During the first six months of last year, the 20 operational casinos provided only a proportion of the amount. Most of the revenues collected by the government came from lotteries and raffles which comprise 8% of the gambling proceeds.

However, it’s not clear which are operating and nearly 50% of Cambodia’s casinos are found in Sihanoukville. The place is known worldwide as a criminal activity capital, discouraging several tourists to set foot in the said region.

Phnom Penh’s NagaWorld isn’t also attracting many tourists to visit and play in Cambodia’s largest casino establishment. Workers and employees are on strike since the start of the year. This scenario continues to result in human rights violation complaints on the government’s end. Nevertheless, the property anticipates improvement and wants an additional gambling area for this year’s mass-market premium players.

Cambodia Being Optimistic to Attract 1 Million International Tourists This Year

So many opportunities and revenues have been lost during the course of the pandemic. Cambodia is very optimistic that it will entice 1 million tourists from around the world to visit the country. During the first half of 2022, the country already welcomed 510,000 which was a 394% increase compared to the same period in 2021.

“Based on this figure, we hope to attract around one million foreign tourists in 2022 and up to two million in 2023,” said Tourism Minister Thong Khon during the ministry’s three-day meeting’s closing ceremony.

The minister added that tourism is one of the four pillars that support the country’s economy. During the pandemic, 6.6 million tourists from around the world entered Cambodia, which generated $4.92 billion.

Cambodia Casinos Registered for Yearly Licence

To make up for the lost time and to generate revenue, 143 casinos registered their yearly licence. Cambodia lost 53% of casino tax revenue from 2019 to 2020.

“The law on commercial gambling management requires a minimum capital investment, plus the Covid-19, caused some of the licence holders (in 2021) to decide not to reapply in 2022. Almost all casinos continue closed. In 2022, 143 have reapplied [for the annual licence]. They are in the process of licensing,” said Ros Phirun, Secretary General at the Commercial Gambling Management Commission of Cambodia.

The slow collection of the earnings is because the commercial gambling operations have just started. Besides, the shortage of revenue made it unworkable for some betting business operators to fulfil the government’s capital investment requirements or pay for renewing licences.

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