CASINOS have served Cambodia as a rare and dependable cash cow ever since the country first emerged from its decades of civil war, in the late 1990s. On the face of it this year will be no different, with the government expecting to increase its takings, slightly, to $25m: a tidy sum for a tiny country, which still has the lowest GDP per person in South-East Asia.
All that revenue, not to mention the profits enjoyed by the 57 casinos that are scattered around Cambodia, will come from the losses incurred by foreign gamblers; Cambodian citizens are by and large banned from gambling in their own country. The Cambodian operators can thank the governments of neighbouring countries for the money they do make. Communist Vietnam enforces a ban against its own citizens gambling at home, which naturally pushes its punters over to Cambodia, where their money is welcome. And for a parallel reason, conservative Buddhist clergy have forbidden gambling houses from Thailand and Myanmar.