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Gambling or entertainment?

120829_03

Two boys play online games at an arcade in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Phnom Penh Post

Sitting in front of one another, there were six people, who were each trying to shoot the fish that was swimming on the game machine’s screen. If you spent only a little time to stand and look at the people who are playing this game, you would think that it was just harmless entertainment.

21-year-old An Serey Vattana spends most of his time after class playing arcade games.

“I go to play that game only when I am free and sometimes I go there once a week” he said. “Sometimes once a month and sometimes twice a week.”

“A game place that I go to play has a policy that we can exchange coins back to money. Thus if I win the game, I could exchange all coins to money and take that money to eat something with my friends. Although honestly speaking, I never win.”

Beside the shooting fish game, there is also the well known JX, which is popular to youths who participate in online gaming.

Leng Sethipanha, a JX player, said, “I started playing JX in 2008, and since that time, I’ve become really addicted to play it. I waste a lot of my time and money on it, and sometimes, I forget my studies.”

All games are made to help people relax in their free time, but whether they start causing personal problems depends on how much time individuals devote to them.

“Nowadays, I rarely play JX, and I play it only when I am free after I finish my work,” says Sethipanha.“Now I know that I shouldn’t play as much as I was before.”

Muy Phat, a Hun Sen Sereypeap high school teacher, stated that “I never punish those who play truant; I just never care about them.” He also added that those who skip school were not punished by the school; instead, absences are listed in order to show the parents of truant students.

He claimed that there were also some parents who come to find their children at school because they know that their children regularly avoided classes.

Regarding to these games, Chan Hoeun, a lawyer and legislation director of the General Commissariat of National Police said, “According to my experiences, in order to know whether computer games are vehicles for gambling, it depends on three main points. First, we must check whether the games can cause insecurity to the society, such as people who lose these games having the potential to rob someone for the money they’ve lost. Second, we focus on how much money players can potentially lose in these games. Third, we focus on the players’ intention, and whether they play for entertainment or for money.”

He said that if authorities focus on the entertainment of the customers playing games, they cannot count it as the gambling, even though winning these games can result in a cash prize, because these games do not satisfy all the above criteria.

According to the General Commissariat of National Police, the authorities have the duty to punish and close down illegal gambling operations of any type, especially near centres of study.

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