THE Ministry of Finance is to take measures to strengthen and maintain the ban on all forms of gambling during next month's Khmer New Year holiday, with officials saying that all sports gambling, slot machine and lottery businesses will be eradicated for good, a ministry official said Thursday.
"We will ask police in each city and province to crack down on all gambling during the Khmer New Year, even small-scale gambling," Chea Peng Chheang, a secretary of state at the Finance Ministry, said Thursday.
He said that in the run-up to the New Year holidays, the ministry would issue an announcement banning gambling in provincial towns and remote areas, where many traditionally gather for the holiday.
"I know that during the upcoming New Year some gamblers may hide somewhere to gamble," he added.
Police from across the country have raided local betting clubs in line with Prime Minister Hun Sen's February 24 order banning all forms of gambling. Last Saturday, police in Russey Keo district arrested 41 patrons and two club owners after a raid on two sports clubs in Svay Pak commune.
"A gradual crackdown is still in place and provides a warning to those [gamblers and employers] who choose to be stubborn and ignore the ban implemented by the prime minister and City Hall," Song Ly, head of Phnom Penh's Minor Crimes Division, said Monday.
Since the onset of the ban, local media have reported that about 8,000 jobs have been lost in the industry, which previously brought in more than $20 million per year in licensing fees, including $1 million from Cambo Six. The sports betting operator last week announced losses of $12 million and aims to seek government compensation.
But Chea Peng Chheang said the government had strong intent to ensure the ban remained in force since the social effects of the ban outweighed the money earned from gambling taxes and licencing fees for betting and slot machine operators.
Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said similarly that City Hall was optimistic that the ban - on all forms of gambling - would continue to be enforced during the New Year. "Now that Cambo Six is dead, it will not be difficult to ban other activities, including fireworks," he said, adding that police would not arrest gamblers, but that they would be held in custody for the three days of the New Year.
He said that the order would be indefinite since it had improved most people's lives and enjoyed wide support.
"People have called and reported to us if there are illegal activities. It has been a successful order," he said.
But Preah Sihanouk provincial Governor Spoang Sarath said that for this year's celebration it might be hard for authorities to crack down on small-scale village gambling.
However, Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann was pessimistic about the ability of the government to eradicate gambling in the whole Kingdom. "Many directives made by the prime minister have failed," he said.