As Cambodian migrant workers return in droves from Thailand through the casino-laden border town of Poipet, Prime Minister Hun Sen is warning gambling parlour owners this does not mean a jackpot for them.
“Casinos in Phnom Penh and along the border are not for Khmer citizens,” a post dated on Sunday on a Facebook page attributed to Hun Sen says. “Violating this law can affect casinos’ licenses.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak yesterday attested to the edict’s validity.
The post goes on to call on police in all provinces to crack down on illegal online betting amid the World Cup, and warned authorities who participate in such activities to stop immediately.
Gambling of all types, the Facebook post continues, “splits up families” and is responsible for myriad societal ills including “thievery and drugs”.
When and how the gambling crackdown would begin was unclear, Sopheak said yesterday, but allowing Cambodian citizens – who are legally barred from entering the Kingdom’s casinos – to play could see a casino’s licence nullified. “We know that there are a number of Khmers playing at these casinos,” Sopheak said. “We have nothing to do but to withdraw their licences.”
But tough rhetoric on gambling is nothing new, said Yem Ponharith, a spokesman for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party. The prime minister issued a similar warning years ago, which never came to fruition, he said.
However, Ponharith agreed that gambling causes a number of serious social problems.
“These casinos are small, but create consequences that are seriously affecting society.”
Ly Por You, owner of New World Casino in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet town, said Cambodians are not allowed in his casino, but acknowledged that some try to sneak in. “If [a patron] is Cambodian, [we] tell security to chase them out,” Por You said.
His vigilance would appear to be rare. During visits to multiple casinos for a September 2012 story, Post reporters saw no such enforcement, even when identifying themselves as Cambodians before playing.