Cambodia’s online casinos ordered to close in New Year

By Ethan Anderson Updated
US issues business warning against Cambodian casinos

Cambodia’s casinos could face legal action if they don’t cease online gambling operations by January 1, according to a government spokesman.

Calvin Ayre reports that VOA Cambodia quoted Finance Ministry official Ros Phearun on Christmas Day, saying that government officials would conduct inspections of local casino operators to ensure they are complying with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s August directive to rescind all online gambling licenses by the end of 2019.

Last week, Hun Sen confirmed that the directive was no passing fantasy, telling a local festival audience that “in days to come, online gambling will completely disappear.”

The August directive declared that no new online licenses would be issued and that existing licenses wouldn’t be renewed when they expired at the end of the year.

Phearun, the government’s traditional point person on gambling issues, echoed Hun Sen’s recent comments by claiming that the online gambling ban was intended to reduce money laundering by unscrupulous operators.

Phearun claimed Cambodia currently lacked the technical capabilities to ensure that all operators were complying with their regulatory obligations.

Many of the new casino licenses issued over the past two years have been for Chinese-run operations in Sihanoukville.

VOA quoted a Preah Sihanouk provincial spokesperson saying that local authorities had no choice but to “implement what is set by the government” and thus Sihanoukville’s casinos will be closely monitored to ensure they’ve shut their online operations.

Phearun told the Khmer Times that there were 141 active casinos in Cambodia – down from 163 in June.

This could be a reflection of the exodus of Chinese operators following August’s directive – of which 89 were operating online gambling and arcade machines.

Some 72 casinos are believed to be officially operating in Sihanoukville alone.

Phearun added that a “joint committee… will inspect each casino” to see if online operations are ongoing, and that “we will not wait until January … we will start to crack down on the night of December 31.”

Casinos found to be flouting the new rules will face not only license revocation, but also legal action.

While most Cambodians seem okay with the government’s anti-online steps, not everyone is convinced the government will allocate sufficient resources to ensure compliance.

This past spring, the government ordered the closure of a land-based casino in Sihanoukville that was pumping raw sewage into the sea, but the owner – who at the time had been operating without a license for more than a year – simply ignored the shutdown order for three months.

Casino closes in March

In March, officials ordered the closure of the Jin Ding Hotel and Casino following multiple complaints that the resort was flushing raw sewage straight into the sea.

First reported in March, Cambodian officials ordered the closure of the casino.

It had recently opened on Koh Rong Samloen Island and was forced to shut from March 22 after failing to follow a range of official guidelines.

The property is said to have ignored development restrictions and promoted illegal online betting games, according to local media reports.

The property is owned by Chinese national Zhou Jianhua via his company 168 Jinding International Entertainment Co Ltd.

“The casino’s owner had the building constructed on the beach too close to the sea and violated some terms and conditions,” a local government spokesman said.

“We ordered [the owner] to completely close it on March 22 in order for his staff to find other jobs.

“We are not closing it immediately – we have instructed him on many occasions but he failed to comply with our directives.”

The closure comes after 77 families filed complaints, which led to a working group inspecting the property.

The group found that the property was illegally built directly on the sandy beach and did not incorporate a proper sewage filtration system.

Chinese tourists behind casino boom

Nevertheless, the Deputy Director-General at the Ministry of Finance’s financial industry department, Ros Phearun, told the Khmer Times this week that the growing number of casinos “reflects the increase in tourists, particularly Chinese.”

“We have granted a lot of licences, but there are actually only 51 licences in operation,” he added.

“The rest are now being built, while some have halted operations.”

Phearun said the government was expecting to collect around US$70 million from the gaming industry in 2019, up from US$46 million last year.

The Cambodian government is currently working on a draft gaming bill, the Law on the Management of Integrated Resorts and Commercial Gambling, aimed at refining regulation of the industry.

Cambodian casino accused of beating patrons

A Cambodian casino is accused of beating eight Chinese gamblers suspected by casino management of cheating. is reported that media in mainland China and local Cambodian media are reporting that staff at the unnamed casino took the law into their own hands in the western Cambodian town, which has quickly grown into a Chinese casino hub in the space of just a few years.

The eight gamblers – four men and four women – were reportedly separately called into a back room at the casino on April 3, where they were held for up to ten hours and savagely beaten.

The gamblers were told they would only be allowed to leave to go to the hospital once they had signed a document admitting to fraud.

The right gamblers had won amounts ranging from a few thousand dollars to more than $20,000 according to reports.

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