Since January 1, 2020, the Cambodian online casino industry is illegal. Nationwide, inspectors will begin checks to see whether casinos have complied with the government demands.
Cambodians Lose Casino Jobs in Droves
With the new year, Cambodia has enacted a forceable shut-down of its online gambling industry, leading to massive layoffs. Some 7,700 Cambodians have lost their jobs between August and December, as a result of the clampdown, and more jobs are at risk, government officials warned on Tuesday, December 31.
Amongst the most severely affected is Sihanoukville, a hub for online gambling where multiple casinos have been running targeting Chinese mainland players. After Cambodia Prime Minister, Hun Sen, issued a warning in August, many properties have begun to shut down.
And the ban, as per Mr. Sen’s warning, will be permanent. The prime minister was bowing both to pressure from China as well as showing a genuine concern for the interests of Cambodians nationals. According to reports, foreign criminals have been using the online gambling industry to launder and extort money.
China believes that Sihanoukville is a tax haven for wealthy Chinese businessmen who have been sent capital abroad to avoid taxation. With some 90% of the business in the coastal city owned by Chinese nationals, that is not too difficult to imagine.
However, Cambodia has been the recipient of generous Chinese cash flow, a palliative against U.S. sanctions on top officials from the country.
Shutting Down he Online Gambling Industry in Cambodia
Starting today, January 1, 2020, Cambodian officials will begin running nationwide checks to make sure that casinos are compliant and shutting down online operations. Speaking to Reuters, Ros Phearun, who serves as deputy Director General at the Ministry of Finance’s Industry Department, said the country would not waste time in enforcing the measure.
Mr Phearun, however, equally acknowledged that the state will suffer significant financial losses to its bottom line. Online operators contributed estimated $80 million to the state’s coffers, he explained.
And the exodus has been going in full swing. Since the measure was announced in August, some 136 properties have packed up and moved in anticipation of a broader crack down. According to Mr. Phearun, operating online casinos should be fewer than 94 properties by the end of January.
Sihanoukville has been one of the hardest hit places with some 36 operators remaining as of the time of Mr. Phearun’s statement, out of some 70 a year before. The ramifications for the locals have been significant though. The Cambodia’s government leaving no alternatives for locals who had grown dependent on the casino industry.
Some 7,700 people have lost their casino jobs as of January 1, 2020. Admittedly, not all people lost their jobs all at once, nor all people remain unemployed. Nevertheless, the consequences are too far-reaching to adress right away. A plausible alternative for locals is going back to factory work. The factors are a staple of the economy in Sihanoukville before casinos began arriving in droves.