Punters place bets at a Cambo-Six outlet in Phnom Penh, June 23.
As Euro 2008 steams towards its June 30 final, football fans are betting more than $1 million a day at Cambo-Six outlets, but calls are mounting for better regulation of gambling amid concerns that heavy losses will lead to a spike in crime.
Figures from Cambo-Six, the country's only authorized betting shop, indicate that it is raking in at least $1.12 million to $1.4 million a day on Euro 2008.
Suos Panha, a staff member at one of the 29 Cambo-Six outlets in Phnom Penh, said the branch was taking between $40,000 and $50,000 a day in bets on Euro 2008, a figure likely to rise ahead of the final in Vienna on June 30.
Panha said the value of bets taken by Cambo-Six during the European and World cups was double the usual amount.
"We achieve our best sales during the Euro and World Cup tournaments because the number of bettors increases and they bet double," he said.
"I've noticed that there's also been an increase in the number of bookmakers on the streets and they make a lot of money as well."
At Phsar Tapang, a popular informal venue for bookies and punters on Rue Pasteur, bookmaker Chan Phalla said he had been taking $2,000 a day in bets since Euro 2008 began, up from about $800 a day before the tournament.
"I think about 90 percent of the people in Phnom Penh are betting on Euro ‘08," Phalla said.
But with punters working themselves up into a pre-final frenzy, some are calling for greater regulation of one of Cambodia's greatest pastimes.
Son Chhay, chairman of the National Assembly's Commission on Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, Information and Media, said the government should control gambling - in particular betting on soccer - because it led to robbery and other crimes and contributed to social instability.
"Betting on soccer, besides losing money and wasting time, also causes family violence or can cause social problems like robbery," Chhay told the Post.
"Crime happens because the people who bet on football spend and lose more money than in any other form of gambling," he added, saying that most of the tens of thousands of people betting each day at Cambo-Six outlets throughout the country were youths.
Cambodia's gambling culture has also created a regulatory headache for government officials who say they have no way of knowing how much money the industry generates or how to tax it.
Cambo-Six alone brings in about $60 million, according to Chhay, citing figures from the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
Finance ministry secretary of state Chea Peng Chheang, who also chairs the committee for combating gambling, said Cambo-Six pays more than $1 million in taxes each year.
Peng Chheang said Cambo-Six did not have a contractual obligation to report its daily income from betting, but added: "We will check and if they gain lots of money we will increase the tax with the new contract," he said.