Legislation to Spur Investment

A license to operate in Japan remains the top prize for the world’s biggest casino operators. However, there is increasing competition around Asia with some other jurisdictions rapidly gaining ground.

Cambodia is seen as one of hottest casino markets in the region and the government in Phnom Penh is expected to introduce long-delayed legislation to regulate the industry in September. While casinos are legal, the lack of a strong regulatory framework has meant the market is off limits to some more established casino operators.

Unlike in Japan, the government hasn’t set a limit on the number of casino licenses and a total of 184 have now been issued. About 100 were handed out in the past year, driven mainly by an influx of mainland Chinese investment under the “one belt one road” initiative.

Many of Cambodia’s casinos are smaller operations clustered along the borders with Vietnam and Thailand. They rely on foot traffic from those two countries, whose residents cross into Cambodia to gamble as they are not permitted to play at home.

Hong Kong-listed Nagacorp operates the country’s biggest casino — Nagaworld — in Phnom Penh. The company has a monopoly in a 200 kilometer radius of the capital and the IR is one of the most profitable in Asia.

Much of the most recent activity has been centered on the coastal town of Sihanoukville, which now has 42 casinos and where another large-scale IR is planned. (AGB)