I can walk into a casino and gamble in Cambodia, as long as I show my US passport to the casino staff. But it’s illegal for Cambodian citizens to gamble, and those who are near a casino and are caught gambling, will be prosecuted.
The prime minister has stated that if any casinos, or the authorities monitoring them, allow Khmer citizens to enter, those casinos would be shut down and the police officials involved will be punished. That has not been the case with several casinos, however.
In 2011, Cambodian casinos generated $20 million in tax revenue, a 25 per cent increase from the previous year.
The government has supported the development of more casinos because of the tax revenue they generate. This revenue is used to help develop the Kingdom’s health and education systems.
The prime minister also said last week that building casinos along the nation’s borders would prevent Thailand and Vietnam encroaching on Cambodian territory.
Some protest that the development of more casinos will force residents off their land and lead to an increase in crime and a gambling addiction that will worsen the poverty cycle.
With the rise in online poker and internet-based gaming, gambling has become more accessible, and addiction becomes easier.
A gambling addiction can take a toll on your health as well as your wallet. The financial stress can lead to loss of job, family and reputation in the community.
What starts out as a game can gradually become a serious problem, with the gambler always thinking he’s on the verge of winning, and being consumed by the thrill of the game.
Some government officials are addicted to gambling, and have been seen gambling in private rooms of casinos. The police are not doing anything to shut down these casinos, as some government officials have a vested interest in the casino business.
Australians spend nearly $12 billion a year on poker machines, and three-quarters of them are poker-machine players.
One in six people who regularly play the pokies has a severe gambling problem. It’s not just about the money, but the harm done to themselves and their families. Gambling addicts lose quality time with their families and struggle to maintain relationships, which can lead to divorces and broken homes.
The Australian government has a responsibility to protect people whose gambling is out of control. It has set up counselling centres where gambling addicts can seek help and their families can learn how to help deal with them.
In Cambodia, there are no counselling centres or mental-health services for gambling addicts. This is a growing problem the government must address and find solutions for, because gambling addiction can lead to other forms of abuse such as drugs and alcohol.
All Cambodian citizens should abide by the gambling laws. Many laws are not obeyed by all citizens, and our gambling law seems to apply only to Cambodian citizens who are powerless, not to government officials and ministers who are VIP customers of, or investors in, these casinos.
Gambling should not be considered a way to make money. Whether you play the slot machines, blackjack or roulette, casino games are based on random outcomes. And the house always wins – just like our government.
The Social Agenda with Soma Norodom
The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.