As Cambodia furthers itself from the tumultuous ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, topics such as economic development and tourism are receiving more and more attention. Developers in Cambodia believe that building casino resorts will be highly beneficial for tourism and the economy alike. Currently, there are 25 casinos in Cambodia, but many of these are small and cater primarily to hard-core gamblers in the surrounding area. Gambling in Southeast Asia is growing rapidly and Cambodia is seeking to capitalize on this, in hopes of increasing tourism and foreign investment.
The Cambodian government has supported the push for more casinos largely because of the tax revenue that casinos generate. Last year, Cambodian casinos generated $20 million in tax revenue, which was a 25% increase from the previous year. A spokesperson for Cambodia’s Council of Ministers says that this revenue is used as aid in the development of Cambodia’s health and education systems. However, not all citizens support the creation of additional casinos. These protesters argue that the development of additional casinos will force residents off their land and lead to an increase in crime. Others do not support the cause simply because they believe that it will not be economically successful.
Singapore, the Philippines, and the Chinese territory of Macau have already benefitted and continue to benefit from the gambling boom in Southeast Asia. Macau alone generated $33.5 billion in gambling revenue last year, a figure that is more than five times greater than the revenue generated from the entire Las Vegas Strip. For Cambodia, the question is whether or not its casinos can compete with casinos in countries like Singapore, the Philippines, and Macau. The number of tourists visiting Cambodia is increasing steadily, but is still a fraction of the number of tourists traveling to neighboring countries. Developers still believe that creating modern, attractive casinos and building them in strategic locations will attract tourists and profits.
If new casinos are successful, the benefits will far outweigh the costs. New casinos will create jobs, as well as tax revenue that can be used for economic and social needs. Also, increased tourism would likely lead to more business for surrounding tourist attractions and venues.