Details emerge on Cambodia’s updated gaming law

Details emerge on Cambodia's updated gaming law

Details emerge on Cambodia's updated gaming lawNew details have emerged regarding the oft-delayed update of Cambodia’s Gaming Law.

On Friday, the Khmer Times reported that the Cambodian government had held a meeting of cabinet ministers and over 100 private sector stakeholders to discuss the latest draft of the new Gaming Law, which has been in the works for over two years now.

Government reps declined to specify the new draft’s tax implications but the report said expectations were for a rate of between 4% and 5% of gambling revenue. That is higher than the effective rate of 2% currently paid by NagaCorp’s NagaWorld casino in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh. However, that range is lower than the 5% to 7% that NagaCorp chairman Timothy McNally was predicting last month.

The government’s share of the revenue generated by Cambodia’s 69 casinos has long been a source of angst for opposition politicians, who claim casino operators are getting off lightly. But figures released this week by the Ministry of Finance showed casino tax revenue of $37.4m through the first nine months of 2016, compared to $34.7m through all 12 months of 2015.

The Khmer Times report made no mention of whether the government plans to relax its restriction on only allowing international tourists to gamble in casinos. In 2014, Cambodia was said to be studying the ramifications of allowing Khmer citizens to enter casinos, but this week’s meeting appeared solely focused on the casino industry’s ability to drive international tourism.

The draft law will confine online gambling operations to land-based casinos. Many of the casino licenses issued over the past few years have gone to operators whose primary motivation was to offer online gambling, but the new rules will explicitly rule out any more karaoke bar gambling sites.

Cambodia plans to establish a Gaming Management Committee (GMC) to oversee casino operators’ internal financial controls and to guard against money laundering and other criminal activities. The GMC will be tasked with everything from writing regulations to collecting tax revenue to doling out punishments for rule breakers.

The draft also enshrines NagaWorld’s exclusive right to operate casinos within a 200-kilometer radius of Phnom Penh until 2035, while the property’s gaming license extends through 2065.

NagaCorp’s McNally, who was among the stakeholders at this week’s meeting, said the government and casino operators shared a common goal of growing Cambodia’s tourism industry and developing the country into “a center of entertainment and leisure activities in Indochina.”