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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - More gambling centres close

More gambling centres close

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090227_13.jpg

Sporting Live Group among many gaming venues shut down across the

Kingdom following Prime Minister Hun Sen's crackdown on Cambo Six.

Photo by:
Heng Chivoan

A security guard stands in front of a closed branch of Sporting Live in Phnom Penh on Thursday. The company is the latest gambling entity to face closure, it said.  

THE government's crackdown on licensed gambling extended beyond Cambo Six on Thursday following an earlier directive targeting all electronic gaming, slot machines and sports betting in the Kingdom, officials said.

Minister of Finance Keat Chhon said he issued a declaration Wednesday terminating all previously valid licenses  following a directive by Prime

Minister Hun Sen the same day ending gambling to "make social reform, strengthen public order, and improve social morality".

"We will punish - in accordance with the law - any business licensee who disrespects this declaration," Keat Chhon said.

Sporting Live Group, an internet-based sports gambling chain set up in 2006, was forced to close, it said Thursday, the latest company to be hit by the government crackdown on gambling after Hun Sen's abrupt announcement on Tuesday that Cambo Six would be closed for moral reasons.

"We agreed to close our business in accordance with the government's decision," said a Sporting Live employee who requested anonymity.

Its Phnom Penh branches were shuttered Thursday, while other officials outside the capital reported they had forced closures in the provinces.

Like Cambo Six, Sporting Live also has foreign backers, although the company employee refused to answer questions about the overseas money invested. It employs 200 workers, he said.

Both Sporting Live and Cambo Six said Thursday that they had not been able to pay out all winnings owed to customers because of the crackdown, despite Keat Chhon's insistence that all punters could be paid by the end of Wednesday.

Nancy Chau, manager of Cambo Six's head office, said Thursday that during a meeting with Keat Chhon the previous day, she had been advised to send a letter to the prime minister requesting a compromise on the issue in a bid to save the considerable investment - both domestic and foreign - in the company.

  We agreed to close our business in accordance with the government's

"We told the prime minister we have an agreement; we cannot immediately end the agreement," she said, referring to the company's licence, which before this week's forced termination had been valid until January 31, 2011.

Chau said there had been no reply from Hun Sen as of Thursday afternoon.

"We do not know [the response] - we are lost right now," she said.

Daun Penh district Governor Sok Sambath told the Post he had followed the government's directive to cease the operations of licensed gaming venues.

"We have closed all seven Cambo Six branches, three Sporting Live branches and nine slot-machine venues in Daun Penh, he said.

In Preah Sihanouk province, Governor Sboang Sarath also closed a number of gambling venues, he said.

In Phnom Penh, however, the NagaWorld, a riverside casino featuring slot machines, was still operating as normal on Thursday afternoon.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STEVE FINCH

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