There are fourteen casinos in Cambodia and Poipet has over half of them. Business was slow during the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) two years ago but the industry is now booming and players from Thailand once again are flocking across the nearby border. Genting has a hotel casino in Poipet, operating around 100 table games, but last September Greek Mythology Entertainment Group, operator of a casino in Macau, scrapped plans for a US$50 million casino in Cambodia. The possibility that Thailand will legalize casinos before long was apparently too great a risk for the company.
To many the name Cambodia invokes horrific images of the past and, until people’s perceptions change, the country will battle to attract tourists. The developing tourism infrastructure still has a long way to go but Cambodia does have some amazing sights to offer visitors. Prices are high owing to the need to import all materials used. In 2004 a ban was placed on the movement of building materials from Thailand to a new casino complex across the as yet not officially demarcated border in Cambodia. This followed protests that the casino was encroaching on Thai land.
NagaCorp operates the only legal casino in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh on a floating barge moored on the Mekong River. The status of the Poipet casinos is less clear but it appears that politicians in high places are in favour of the expanding casino industry. A local police officer has been reported as commenting that the police are not authorized to investigate the casinos. In the past there have also been reports of people being evicted at gun point to make way for further development. At present, Cambodia’s casino profits are more likely to enrich the country’s officials than to improve the lives of its people. (E-07.05.06)
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