In this interview with CalvinAyre.com’s Stephanie Tower, Rhys Jones, managing director of Hatien Vegas, talks about the current gaming landscape in Cambodia.
Cambodia is experiencing a gambling boom at the moment. In the last 18 months, the Cambodian government has issued an estimated 100 gaming licenses to operators wanting to set up their business in this Southeast Asian nation. In Cambodia’s coastal province of Sihanoukville alone, the number of foreign visitors has grown dramatically that the hotel sector has been in a mad dash to construct 10 new hotels and open 1,000 rooms this year.
Data showed that Sihanoukville welcomed 1 million local tourists and 470,000 foreign visitors in 2017. An estimated 120,000 Chinese tourists visited Sihanoukville in 2017, twice the number recorded in 2016, in part to gamble in the coastal province’s casinos.
“Gaming in Cambodia is booming right now. In the last 18 months, there’s been roughly another a hundred gaming licenses that have been issued. So they currently stand at around 184 gaming licenses,” Rhys Jones, managing director of Hatien Vegas, told CalvinAyre.com. “There’s a lot of investments coming out from China and other countries, and a lot of them had been encouraged with the stance of the government towards gaming, specifically towards online gaming.”
Jones believes that Cambodia has the potential to emerge from the shadows of its Southeast Asian peers due to its gambling-friendly policies.
In the case of rivaling the Philippines in the iGaming sphere, Jones pointed out that the Cambodian government has a positive view on online and land-based casinos. The government knows that at least 200,000 people will be affected if all these businesses will shut down, according to Jones.
Jones said Cambodia is in the process of enacting new regulations that will encourage online investments.
“If it is well regulated, then Cambodia can easily rival the Philippines. And because it is cost-effective, it is a very positive view for the government. There’s also resources there in terms of internet, in terms of staffing, in terms of facilities,” he said. “If a company wanted to move into the Cambodian market and operate there, they can operate within the license of an existing casino, for instance, Hatien Vegas. We operate with an online license and we are willing to collaborate, things like that.”
The only threat to Cambodia’s gambling industry is the possible legalization of gambling in Vietnam and Thailand, according to Jones.
“Any changes in the gaming law are going to have a direct effect. There’s also a potential in Thailand that they would, at some point, look at regulating gaming. It’s unknown but it is a possibility. So, there’s two threats on either side and it’s the majority of the casinos operate on those borders,” Jones said. “So, a lot of people have been looking for the last year or so to moving into the online sphere, to protect jobs and to protect their investments, and operate in a soon to be more regulated environment.”