Cambodia mulls legalizing online gambling in overhaul of legislation

    Cambodia is considering an overhaul of its gambling legislation and may legalize online betting to broaden the government’s revenue base, according to the Phnom Penh Post.
    The government is hoping to attract investment from major U.S. and Macau casino operators.
    Ros Phirun, a spokesman for the Ministry of Economy and Finance’s gaming and casino department, was cited as saying the government is in the process of drafting stricter, more transparent regulation and investigative requirements.
    “Currently, we are in the process of drafting a Casino Law to attract bigger casino operators,” he said, adding that a new draft could be finalized as early as this year. “While we don’t provide online licences yet, it is in the process of being studied,” he said.
    Despite having one of the strongest growing tourism markets in Asia, Cambodia has failed to attract the same levels of casino investment as its regional neighbours, such as the Philippines and Singapore.
    The World Bank forecasts foreign direct investments inflows to Cambodia will rise 12 percent in 2014 to $1.6 billion. Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund is projecting Cambodia’s gross domestic product will expand 7.2 percent in 2014, with inflation at 3.4 percent.
    International tourist arrivals to Cambodia significantly outpaced worldwide tourism growth in 2013, increasing 17 percent to approximately 4.2 million visitors. Vietnam, China and Korea were the top three countries in terms of total tourist arrivals, with visitors from China increasing by 39 percent year-on-year, to 463,123 visitors.
    However, Cambodia’s casino industry is dominated by Hong Kong-listed NagaCorp’s NagaWorld, which has a stronghold on the most-prized location in the country.
    The resort has a 70-year casino licence that will run until 2065, as well as a 41-year monopoly within a 200km radius of Phnom Penh that expires in 2035.
    The group reported a 24 percent jump in revenue in 2013 to $344.9 million, while net profit increased by 24 percent to $140.3 million. It’s planning to open a second resort, Naga2, in 2016.
    Many of the country’s other casinos are small and proliferate along the border regions, attracting a large audience from Thailand where gambling is illegal.