Hun Sen targets 15 unlicensed slots halls, underscoring ban
PRIME Minister Hun Sen ordered the closure of 15 unlicensed slot machine centres during a Council of Ministers' meeting on Friday, underscoring the fact that many gambling operators ignored his December 5 directive.
According to a statement from the Council of Ministers' meeting, the prime minister asked the National Police chief and the National Military Police commander to close 12 slot machine centres in Phnom Penh, two in Sihanoukville and one in Kandal province.
Sao Sokha, National Military Police commander, said Sunday that all the slot machine venues on Hun Sen's list were closed "immediately" after the order.
"Those slot machine parlours were operating without licenses, violating the December 5 government directive," he said.
Hun Sen also asked the Ministry of Economy and Finance to search for hotels with registered slot machines that allow local Cambodians to gamble. These, too, would be shut down.
"We are still monitoring the licensed slot machine parlours. If they allow Khmers to play, we will shut them down, too," Sao Sokha said.
Son Chhay, a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker, said that in Cambodia, there are 50 licensed casinos and more than 200 gambling centres.
But, he said, the government ban of local, Cambodian gambling has been ineffective and revealing.
"I still see luxury cars carrying government number plates parked outside [slot machine] clubs. The cars clearly belong to senior officials," Son Chhay said.
Chea Vannath, an independent analyst, said that she welcomed the government crackdown but questioned whether it would be successful.
The difficulties manifest in enforcing Hun Sen's recent order, she said, showed a surprising "weakness in his authority".
In 2008, according to Son Chhay, the government collected about US$10 million from casinos.