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Casino gambling on a deadline

A casino that has been operating without a licence for more than a year may be finally getting ready to apply for one, the president of the company that operates it said yesterday.

AHS King Group Casino had been ordered by the Ministry of Economy and Finance more than three months ago to shut its casino in Ratanakkiri’s O’Yadav district until it obtained a business licence, local reports said yesterday.

Company president Um Vila declined to answer questions yesterday about how his casino had managed to continue operating since receiving a written warning from the ministry on April 19, but said he was preparing a legal response for the ministry.

The letter, which was signed by Finance Minister Keat Chhon, noted that the casino had been operating without a licence for more than a year, according to extracts printed in local media.

The minister explained that a licence was necessary so taxes could be collected effectively and warned that if the casino did not comply, it would be closed.

O’Yadav district governor Dork Sar said he had not seen a copy of the letter. He said he would ask provincial officials about the issue, adding that if the minister had indeed sent such a letter, he would ask his subordinates to suspend the casino’s activities.

He confirmed that the casino had been operating for more than a year, saying it was  popular with Vietnamese gamblers.

Provincial governor Pav Hamphan said the company had received permission from the Council of Ministers to operate a casino in the area, but had yet to complete the paperwork required to obtain a licence.

“The company is slowly getting things done for the ministry,” Pav Hamphan said.

Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said that if the casino had operated so long without a licence, it might be bribing local officials.

Chea Peng Chheang, a secretary of state at the Finance Ministry, declined to comment.

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