- Cambodia to suspend issuing new licenses
- Existing licenses won’t be renewed
- Police begins to enforce the new directive immediately
Cambodia will stop issuing gaming licenses effective immediately. Existing licenses will be allowed to expire, but won’t be renewed in what is the country’s largest clamp down on gambling.
Cambodia to Completely Phase Out Gambling
Cambodia has made a volt-face on online and retail gambling, after the government announced plans to completely withdraw its support for the activity. Speaking on Sunday, August 18, Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Hun Sen, ordered that no more gambling license are issued to businesses.
The measure concerned both parties on the territory of Cambodia and outside it. More surprisingly, the Prime Minister intends not to suspend the existing licenses, but rather to ban their renewal. Mr. Sen’s motivation is a familiar one.
‘The Royal Government of Cambodia will stop the issuance of online gambling policy and licenses, both within and outside of the Kingdom of Cambodia, from the date of signing this directive,’ the directive read.
Based on the information released by the government, underground gambling crime syndicates have been exploiting people who have fallen victim to debt. Plus, there were suspicions that money were laundered this way, the official statement said.
To ensure the implementation of the directive, Mr. Sen has called on police to start enforcing the measure right away. Lt. General Chhay Kim Khoeun, a spokesperson for Cambodia’s police force, said that the police had already started cracking down on illegal gambling rings.
On Wednesday, the police led a raid in Sihanoukville where they arrested 127 Chinese nationals who were suspected of running a crime syndicate that has been extorting money out of people through gambling.
Unlike other countries where local business is banned and foreign operators can still poach the occasional gamer, Cambodia’s Interior Ministry warned Cambodians that they would be violating the law if they participated at an offshore gambling website.
A Complete Reversal for Cambodia Gambling
Cambodia has been making headlines quickly. As of April 30, 2019 there were 163 issued gambling licenses in the kingdom, putting Cambodia way ahead of any other destination in Asia. Many of the companies wanted to target China and attract Chinese customers who are both wealthy and eager to circumnavigate Macao and a blanket gambling ban in the mainland.
Yet, China has been very belligerent against any such attempts. Recently, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced plans to discuss the issue with illegal Chinese workers with his homologue from the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, know for his populistic rhetoric and strongman practices.
China has been particularly critical of the so-called Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOS) targeting Chinese nationals.
Meanwhile, China has also had its eye on Macao, where the country has suspected some junket operators to be in cahoots with offshore companies in an attempt to syphon off revenue from the region.
Chinese authorities have warned companies that should they be found guilty, they would bear stiff consequences.