Cambodians are now legally allowed to wager their hard-earned cash on international
football after the government awarded a gaming license to the Royal Cambodia Goals
company. RCG is owned by a Chinese-American corporation.
A director of the company said RCG invested more than $1 million after three months
of research that showed a proliferation of illegal bookies in the country.
"We are creating more jobs and paying tax to the government, [whereas] the [illegal]
bookies do not do that," said Nancy Chau. "We can do it properly so the
government can earn more money, and more people will have jobs."
However Chau would not identify the company's owner, and was unable to say how much
tax she expected RCG would contribute to the government's coffers.
The city's illegal bookmakers were annoyed at the arrival of a commercial competitor.
Some bookies have lost two-thirds of their business since RCG opened its betting
windows January 2.
"Previously I would get around $1,000 of bets each day," said one disgruntled
bookie. "Now I pull in only $300 to $400."
Football enthusiasts gather daily inside the company's air-conditioned betting room
on Sihanouk Boulevard to try their luck at predicting the results of Europe's most
popular football clubs.
RCG also plans to set up a system to accept bets by phone and on the internet. Around
50 employees work at RCG's various branches, and the company wants to hire more people
as it expands across the country.
Gambling on football took off two years ago resulting in numerous complaints from
parents, whose children skipped school to wager their pocket-money, and gamblers
who lost money and motorbikes to their habit. The Phnom Penh municipality cracked
down on illegal bookies in 2001.
Chau said RCG would also like to sponsor the country's national football team, whose
luckless recent performances have placed the German coach's job at risk. RCG is not
currently offering odds on any possible replacement.