Cambodian Illegal Gambling Scene Almost Completely Shut Down

Cambodia is on a full-on large-scale war against illegal gambling nationwide. The police have reportedly been conducting an operation throughout the entire country for more than a week now, and the results are astounding, at least according to reports citing local authorities. No matter how successful these operations may sound, it still leaves a bitter-sweet aftertaste, when the realization of how vast the number of victims of these crimes really is starts creeping into the background.

“90%” Illegal Gambling Sites Closed

The Phnom Penh Post reported on Sok Phal, who is the secretary of state of the Ministry of Interior and Head of the national working group, saying “90 percent” of illegal gambling “dens” have been closed down. This was commentary from a September 30 meeting that took place in Sihanoukville. It was prompted by the success of multiple raids of illegal Sihanoukville gambling sites and provided a good opportunity to update the country on the nationwide operation’s progress against illegal gambling.

According to the Phnom Penh Post’s report, north of 1,000 foreigners of different nationalities have been held by the police under suspicions of online gambling, breaching immigration laws, human trafficking, and prostitution. These are all extremely harmful crimes that have the potential to cause immense damage to their victims, and the worrying trend of increasing headlines reporting a growing number of people affected has been pushing the government to exercise more and more stringent control measures and operations.

This disproportionately affects those of lower income, as officials suggest, which further fuels unrelated crimes, sometimes out of necessity, as people struggle to make ends meet.

Fighting Together Against Crime

Neighboring Thailand joined Cambodia in the crackdown on illegal gambling, with Asia Gaming Brief reporting on 550 illegal immigrants arrested in Cambodia, and 40 suspects in Thailand in the final days of September. The Crime Suppression Division (CSD) in Thailand was reported of carrying out more than fifty raids across ten provinces, seizing assets worth millions of dollars. The numbers for Thailand, according to local authorities, suggest that more than two and half thousand gambling websites have been shut down in the last twelve months.

In Cambodia, as impressive as the results may sound, they also indicate just how dire that situation was in the first place, and there is no number of raids, sanctions, and crackdowns that can turn back the time. This is no reason to stop fighting crime, however, and the incredibly fruitful operation resulted in hundreds of lives being changed. Just days ahead of the news from Thailand, Cambodian authorities reported on 154 individuals being arrested for links to illegal gambling. This is not the only illegal gambling hub in the country, of course, with the government sharing information about a worrying number of organized crime groups or individuals being identified as potential illegal gambling hotspots. North of 1,700 facilities was targeted in Cambodia’s war against illegal gambling, painting a terrifying picture of the sheer size of the black market on the country’s territory. Unfortunately, this is neither the only nor the biggest problem at the Cambodian crime scene.

As of late, it’s safe to say that this title has been mostly attributed to human trafficking, with the two crimes often synergistically going hand in hand. Civil unrest, rampant crime, and a continuously eroding international image meant the government had to act in a decisive, effective, and fruitful way. It’s not easy to talk positively, when local reports suggest 95% of human trafficking complaints are legitimate, however, the government’s actions must be commended. It’s all in the name of restoring order and living conditions, along with the country’s international image, which has been eroding under the pressure of human trafficking and money laundering.

With tourism often being recognized as a staple of the country’s economy, missing this revenue hurts not only the government’s bottom line but also almost the entire local business structure. As businesses struggle, people start to get underpaid or lose their jobs, leading to higher unemployment rates and an increase in poverty, which hurts the economy as a whole. This circles back and completed the cycle in which the government slowly but surely loses its grip on power thanks to rampant crime. This completely undermines the government’s efforts to revitalize the gambling industry, when it’s actually tourists fueling its revenue.

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