Cambodia’s gaming regulator said that the number of licensed casinos in the Kingdom of Cambodia will drop to as low as 50 when the new commercial Gaming Law becomes fully realised.
In September 2023, the Cambodian Commercial Gambling Management Commission (CGMC) confirmed the number of issued licenses to casinos operating in Cambodia had numbered 87. Before the online gaming laws changed pre-pandemic, more than 200 licenses had been issued.
Ros Phirun, Secretary General CGMC in an interview with Inside Asian Gaming on October 30, 2023 confirmed their expectations for the continued drop in licensed gaming operators.
How Is The Cambodian Gaming Law Being Implemented
The implementation of Cambodia’s new Gaming Law was passed in 2021 and was subsequently delayed due to the pandemic.
Among the new regulations are the establishment of Cambodia’s Gaming Regulator and a minimum capital requirement for casino operation – these are also applied to existing licenses operators but under different guidelines.
Cambodia’s law on commercial gaming divides the Kingdom into three distinct gaming zones:
- Prohibited Zones where gaming is not allowed in any shape or form.
- Permitted Zones where operators such as NagaCorp already hold gaming licenses.
- Favoured Zones such as the coastal provinces of Sihanoukville and Koh Kong, which are now the only areas where new integrated resorts can be developed.
Phirun said the regulator has primarily been focused on licensing and regulating gaming and the CGMC will likely issue more licenses. confirming, “in the long run I think it is probably around 50.”
There is a grace period for existing Cambodian casino operators to fully comply with requirements under the Gaming Law and full implementation will be phased in over a period of 15 years (over five phases).
The CGMC was initially taking a soft approach on revenue collection under the new law, which replaced the previous annual fees with a 4% tax on VIP GGR (Gross Gaming Revenue), 7% on mass GGR and a 10% VAT on both.
“We are still young in this industry – both the regulator and the operators…they are learning how to self-declare, so in the first phase we are not receiving much tax but it cannot stay like that – we have to enforce and collect more tax,” added the CGMC Secretary General.
Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2023
Phirun also provided an update on the regulator’s progress during the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas in October. Members of the CGMC staff underwent training on issues such as anti-money laundering, auditing and supervision at the key gaming event.
The implementation of the new laws was seen as vital to strengthening Cambodia’s casino & gaming but staff training is CGMC’s first priority.
“First we need to strengthen the capacity of our staff,” said Phurin. “We have a good law, we have good regulation, we have good policy, but if the capacity of the staff is still low then no one will enforce the law. This must be done together so that we can regulate the industry to international standards.
Sihanoukville – Will It Rebound?
The ban of online gambling and the timing of the pandemic are the main reasons the industry slowed down substantially in Sihanoukville, said the CGMC representative.
Phirun made it clear that since 2020, there have been massive infrastructure developments in the coastal city, including the local roads and the Phnom Penh – Sihanoukville Expressway. He also addresses the issues of the vacant and unfinished buildings and said he wasn’t concerned as there is a government plan to address these.
NagaCorp – Cambodia’s Leading Gaming Operator
NagaCorp runs Cambodia’s only integrated resort, NagaWorld, in Phnom Penh. The operation has a government-imposed monopoly on casino gaming within a 200km radius of the capital.
The company postponed its USD $3.5 billion Naga3 expansion project, and also had to pause its project in Russia due to the conflict.
More recently, bond credit rating agency, Moody’s Investors Service said NagaCorp needed USD $135 million to repay maturing bonds but the company said its confident in being able to fully repay the outstanding Notes before July 2024.