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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Gaming centres back online after gambling crackdown

Gaming centres back online after gambling crackdown

Officials issue licences as IT companies begin to progress with gaming plans

ONLINE gaming is showing signs of revival following public statements made by Minister of Information Khieu Khanharith last month, which cleared computer gaming centres to operate.

The Minister went on record to local media to say that online gaming did not involve betting. The industry had been subject to a police crackdown after Prime Minister Hun Sen made a speech condemning the use of gambling machines in the country, which some interpreted to include online computer games.

The operators of game centres confirmed Monday that in recent weeks many had received licences and are now opening their doors to computer enthusiasts.

One centre, located in the capital’s Daun Penh district, opened recently after a three month hiatus.

“I opened my shop after the Minster of Information said that computer game shops could operate, but I was warned it was not for students in their school uniforms,” said owner Rachana, who asked to be identified only by his first name. He showed a reporter a certificate from the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications allowing the shop to provide Internet services from licensed ISPs.

Another shop owner in the same commune, who asked not to be named, showed reporters a certificate from the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts allowing the operation of a gaming centre.

She said she had opened her shop three days ago after being contacted by a representative from IT company Sabay, which said that online gaming had been given the go-ahead.

Industry spokesmen say larger firms operating online games also require licences.

Sabay was granted a licence by the Ministry of Information to operate online games at the beginning of June, Chief Operating Manager Mike Gaertner said Monday.

Vietnam-owned rival VTC Online said gaming centres were reopening across the city, allowing with the firm to proceed with its plans.

“We are preparing to start advertising our first game, Audition, again. We are looking for a television advertising agency for early next week,” marketing executive Meas Sokha said Monday.

He said there was still confusion as to which governmental body was a regulator for gaming shops.

“The situation of each district is not the same,” he wrote in an email.

Khieu Kanharith declined comment when contacted Monday. MPTC and MCFA officials could not be reached for comment Monday.

And, despite the issuing of licences, Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said Monday that police are still targeting online gambling.

“We still continue to crackdown on computer game shops that offer anything relating to gambling. These shops are illegal,” he said.

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