Cambodia has the potential to rival the Philippines as Asia’s iGaming capital within the next few years, according to a senior executive at one of the country’s most prominent border casinos.
Rhys Jones, Managing Director of Ha Tien Vegas located in Cambodia’s southeastern corner on the Vietnamese border, told Inside Asian Gaming at this week’s iGaming Asia Congress that supportive government policy, the threat posed to border properties by possible liberalisation of casino gaming in Vietnam and Thailand and uncertainty surrounding online regulations in the Philippines could see Cambodia become a much more attractive option for iGaming operators than their traditional Asian home.
“For a long time gaming has been viewed as a boon to the economy on the borders, which really struggle for employment,” Jones said. “There are 140 casino licenses placed on the borders with Vietnam and Thailand and the government sees that as bringing revenue into the country from overseas.
“But now Cambodia is under threat in terms of the legalization of gaming in Vietnam and there is also the potential in Thailand, which is definitely a possibility. Should that evolve we’re talking about up to 200,000 jobs. There are a lot of people involved – not just in the casinos but in service and supply – so there is a big threat there and the obvious replacement for those jobs and the income they provide is to encourage online investment, because if these land-based casinos dry up in terms of footfall patronage they are going to close.”
Jones notes that the government attitude towards gaming in general is “very positive”, with significant investment coming into the country in gaming hubs such as Sihanoukville, mostly from China and Korea. Notably, of the 184 casino licenses currently issued in Cambodia, around 100 have been issued within the past 18 months with most new casinos now providing some sort of online gaming service alongside its traditional offering.
“At the moment, when you get permission for a casino license, it details out what you can do under that license including everything from slot machines to casino games to online gaming to horse racing – all the different variables you could possibly want. If you have that as an option, you pay a separate license fee for your online license as well.
“I don’t know how many of those 184 licenses have online gaming but I guarantee every single new one – and there have been about 100 issued in the next 18 months – they’ll all have online because it makes no sense not to. There is very little difference in cost and then you’re covered.”
Jones also pointed to recent developments in the Philippines, where Pagcor has taken over much of the online licensing process under President Rodrigo Duterte’s reign, as boosting Cambodia’s online gaming stocks.
“People want a bit of certainty,” he said. “And contrary to reports you might have read, there have been no recorded cases of the Cambodia government shutting anything down. All of the recorded cases reported in the newspapers have been VOIP scandals or credit cards scams, they have been the ones caught, but no one that is running a legitimate business in Cambodia and has a legitimate license has had any issues.”