Cambodian Casinos Shutting in 2020, Non-compliance to Incur Legal Action

Cambodia will shut down online gambling on January 1, 2020. Cambodian casinos failing to comply will face tough ramifications, a Finance Ministry spokesperson has warned.

Online Gambling Shutting Down in Cambodia

Cambodia is on the cusp of a nation-wide online casinos shut down. With a voted ban on the gaming industry, all Internet casinos in the Kingdom should be coming to a halt on January 1, 2020. Those refusing will face stern legal ramifications, a government spokesman confirmed on December 25.

According to VOA Cambodia, a media outlet, Finance Ministry spokesperson Ros Phearun has warned casinos to shut down, as inspections will be conducted to ensure compliance. Cambodia is giving in to pressure from China as well as a determination to shut down an industry it regards as a conduit of social degradation.

Yet, the real estate market seems to benefit from the decision to unwind gambling activities in the Kingdom.  In August, Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a decree with which he announced the end of issuing new casino licenses, and warned active operators about a forthcoming closure.

A look at the Cambodian casino empire as seen by Al Jazeera.

The measures target online gambling specifically, which should to disappear completely, the Prime Minister confirmed. Specifically, Sen is expecting to tackle money-laundering practices in the Kingdom, which has transformed itself into a semi-gaming hub in Southeast Asia (SEA) in recent years, mostly thanks to the liberal online gambling laws.

Meanwhile, the majority of operations have focused in Sihanoukville, a gaming hub near the border with Thailand where many Chinese brands have been poaching players from China, where gambling is prohibited.

Commenting for Khmer Times, a trusted English media outlet, Phearun said that there are some 140 casinos presently. Estimated 72 of these are based in Sihanoukville alone.

The Chinese Financial Levers Suspending Online Gambling

China has been concerned about letting capital flow out of the country with locals gambling abroad. Therefore, the country has revved up its efforts to prevent gambling beyond its borders. Specifically, China is focusing on countries where it has economic and political clout.

Chinese President Xi Jinping met with his Philippine homologue Rodrigo Duterte to discuss the POGO sector, which has been employing hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers and offering online gambling to Chinese nationals.

While President Jinping hasn’t been successful in enforcing his country’s will in the Philippines in full, Cambodia has been another matter altogether. Thanks to the hundreds of billions of dollars invested through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China has become bolder in exercising influence over Cambodia.

In this case, Chinese funding could stop if Cambodia had failed to comply with the demands to wind down the online casino industry.

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