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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Small gaming clubs hit out at the unfairness of closures

Small gaming clubs hit out at the unfairness of closures

T HE government's official crackdown on gambling houses - including snooker

clubs, in some cases - has been roundly criticized by the owners.

They

say such measures are unfair, given that bigger casinos - for instance, the

Holiday International and the Sharaton - have somehow escaped the

closures.

Also, they say, thousands of locals have been left without

jobs.

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

regardless.

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."

The Post

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

time.

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.

Another club

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.

"I

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

poor education.

"This work does not demand high knowledge or skills," he

said.

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

year ago.

"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

similar responsibilities.

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.

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