T HE government's official crackdown on gambling houses - including snooker
clubs, in some cases - has been roundly criticized by the owners.
say such measures are unfair, given that bigger casinos - for instance, the
Holiday International and the Sharaton - have somehow escaped the
Also, they say, thousands of locals have been left without
Those affected by the May 10 closures say it was at the
government's order, ensuring that Naga Resort's "exclusive" gaming license was
honored - though no officials would confirm the reason.
The closures of
all gambling houses without "official government approval" cut across licenses
given by "junior levels of authority", those affected said.
A manager at
the Pacific Kis International said he had spent "tens of thousands of dollars"
starting his club five months ago with the authorization from a "high-level
ministry official" he could not identify.
His gaming room was closed down
He said this "mercurial policy" of the government would scare
other investors from doing business in Cambodia.
His views were
representative of other club owners. He said: "Compared to the Naga, we're just
like a piece of hair of their legs."
A spokesman for the Holiday
International said staff there had spent a "couple of nervous weeks" but the
casino appeared to have "escaped the closures."
understands that the Holiday's license was granted under the former State of
Cambodia regime of Hun Sen. It is not known under whose authority the Sharaton
opened its gaming establishment, but it has only been operating a short
The Post also understands that the Holiday was also ordered
to close, but ignored the order.The Phnom Penh Municipality "did not take any
strict measures against those clubs that did not comply with the order,"
according to a senior Municipality cabinet member.
"The Municipality has
sent another request to the Royal government for continuation of implementation
on the Holiday and others not yet closed down," he said.
owner who would not be named said the government should allow equal
opportunities for the local investors at the time when people were desperately
in need of employment.
"The government dares to open a casino but does
not allow video games. Computer games are just for fun and a very small bet."
He said in other countries a policeman gets a salary of thousands of
dollars but are still fed by secret gambling clubs. He said he believed that
many such clubs in Cambodia would do the same by feeding the police.
would like to say frankly that I will use the jungle way if the government does
not think over this again," he said.
He also complained that implementing
the Municipality's order was often impossible.
When the police tried to
ban snooker - which was not listed in the order - they were forced to back down
after strong protests.
A third club owner said his business helped create
jobs and its closure had caused many women to lose their jobs. He put the number
at "thousands" working at about twenty big clubs and scores of the smaller ones
in Phnom Penh.
He said 40 of the 60 women working in his club had been
sacked, while the rest had their salaries halved.
Srey Reaksmey, the
manger of the Neak Poan restaurant, said most of the women working in the gaming
clubs were from the country and could not work at other places because of their
"This work does not demand high knowledge or skills," he
Each woman could earn $40 in salaries, and that again in tips.
Keo Veasna, a 23-year-old from Battambang, said she stopped her studies
and come to the city to look for work. She joined the Neak Poan restaurant a
"If I ask for work in the hotels they would require us to speak
English," she said.
Veasna said she had to support her parents and
brothers and sisters at home with her earnings. She said many of her friends had
Hem Longda, 24, said she had been working in
game clubs for three years after she stopped her secondary school studies. She
said she had to support two younger brothers and a sister who were still at
school. "I cannot find other jobs because of my low education," she said.
She said hardly any of her friends had found a new job after they were
sacked from the Pacific Kis, and they were just waiting to see if the government
allows the clubs to open again.