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Cambodia gaming bill expected early 2020

Cambodia is expected to publish long-awaited legislation to regulate its gaming industry in early 2020, with the bill scheduled to introduce a system of taxation based on gross gaming revenue.

Ros Phirun, deputy director general at the Ministry of Finance said in a speech at the Mekong Gaming Summit in Phnom Penh, that the tax rate will be different for casinos operating inside integrated resorts and those that are not within an IR. He didn’t disclose the actual rate.

Cambodia has been working on a draft of its casino regulation since 2010, with the rules expected to have been published this year. The government is hoping a sounder regulatory framework will help to attract further investment into the country’s booming casino sector. 

Fred Gushin, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group, said a move to a GGR-based system of taxation will send a strong signal to investors that Cambodia has put the necessary infrastructure in place to regulate the sector. 

As of the second quarter, the government had issued 136 casino licenses, with 133 casinos in operation. Ros said there had been further license applications moving into Q3.

Of the new license applications this year, 46 percent were in the coastal town of Sihanoukville.

The bill will establish zones where casinos can be located and where they will be banned. Locals will not be able to gamble.

A license for a casino in an IR will be issued for 20 years, though for standalone properties, the license duration will be five years. Junket operators will be allowed and the industry will be overseen by a new body to be known as the Commercial Gaming Committee of Cambodia.

Ros declined to comment on online gaming, which was banned in the Kingdom last month.

Cambodia is widely expected to benefit from a general trend of outward capital investment from China, helped by initiatives such as the “one belt one road” infrastructure program. 

Ministry of Economy and Finance Secretary of State, H.E. Nguon Sokha gave the opening address at the conference, saying the economy grew by 7.5 percent in 2018 and she expects Cambodia to become a “middle income” country by 2030 and a “high income” country by 2050. 

She said gaming is seen as a means of reinforcing the tourism sector, which will be a key plank of the economy.

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