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Tax take up in reeling sector

People gamble at the Ha Tien casino in Kampot province in September of last year. Photo by: Soeun Say
Improved revenue collection techniques led to an annualised 23 percent
increase in tax revenues from the Kingdom’s casino industry, according
to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

But insiders say the industry is facing challenges, with casinos likely to shut if they do not attract more patrons.

“We
think many casinos will go bankrupt, due to fewer clients, if the
government doesn’t establish policies to secure them,” said Kith
Thieng, chief executive officer of Titan Casino in Svay Rieng province.

The
situation would continue unless more clients were encouraged to come to
the border-area casinos, he said, adding most casinos were permitted to
build only in remote locations near the border, which was keeping
patrons away.

Several casinos in Bavet city near the Cambodia-Vietnam border shut their doors last year.

Winn
casino closed in September, while VIP casino ended its operations in
November – with more closures likely to come, officials warned at the
time.

Ministry of Economy and Finance figures obtained yesterday
show the Kingdom’s tax revenue from 20 Cambodian casinos contributed
US$16 million to state coffers in 2010, from $13 million the year
previous.
Ministry secretary of state Chea Peng Chheang said the
increase was due largely to better tax collection measures put in place
by the ministry.

Casinos had also improved management, reducing unnecessary expenses, he claimed.

“We
hope revenues will continue to increase in 2011, because investors in
the sector are gaining more experience in making profits to pay for
their tax obligations, and our tax officers are using better methods
for tax collection,” he said.

Several casinos had closed as well
as opened during the previous year, depending on the relative success
of each of the business ventures, according to Chea Peng Chheang.
However, yesterday he did not detail the number of casinos that were
added or had shut.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said
yesterday the concealment of the numbers of casinos that had closed or
opened proved the government had insufficient procedures to accurately
collect tax revenues from the sector.

Many casinos have obtained
licences but do not keep accurate accounting records to show revenues,
leading to loses for tax collectors, he claimed. “The government
collects more tax revenue from casino entertainment, but it is revenue
from registering for the licence, not from taxes on profit,” he said.

“If
all the casino companies followed official guidelines with accounting
revenues, the government would generate more than $50 million in tax
revenue per year from the sector.”

Phnom Penh Post
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