Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Gov’t halts issuing betting permits

Gov’t halts issuing betting permits

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Some of the127 Chinese nationals apprehended for extortion in a VoIP scam earlier this month. FRESH NEWS

Gov’t halts issuing betting permits

The government stopped issuing licences for internet gambling operations effective Sunday in a bid to crackdown on online extortion, a directive signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen said.

The directive issued the same day said such gambling operations allowed foreign criminals to base themselves in the Kingdom and carry out online scams while masquerading as gaming sites.

The government said it had observed that extortion rackets run by online electronic machine and live gambling operations in the Kingdom, some unlicensed, preyed on both Cambodian victims and those abroad. This affected security and public order, it said.

“From the date of this directive, the Royal Government of Cambodia is to stop issuing licences to online electronic machine gaming and live gambling businesses, both in the Kingdom of Cambodia and abroad.

“Online electronic machine gaming and gambling businesses operating inside the country and from abroad will be allowed to continue their activities within the valid duration as stated in their licence. The Ministry of Economics and Finance must not renew their licences thereafter,” the directive said.

It urged police and military police to raid all illegal online gambling operations.

The directive comes less than a week after 128 Chinese nationals were arrested in Preah Sihanouk province for running a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) online money extortion scam. Authorities said they will be deported.

National Police spokesperson Chhay Kim Khoeun said on Monday that as gambling was illegal in China, the criminals had taken advantage of Cambodia, where online gaming was legal, to extort victims at home.

“Internet [gambling] at casinos is called commercial gaming and is allowed. However, in future, this permission is to end. For those secretly gambling at internet cafes, this has been illegal for some time,” he said.

A gaming manager at a casino on the Cambodia-Vietnam border in Svay Rieng province said on condition of anonymity on Monday that he was not concerned about the new directive as his casino operated online gambling with a licence and regularly paid tax to the state.

“We have an unlimited licence. We have registered our company correctly and are accepted by the government. We pay tax every year, such as a tax on gambling tables,” he said.

Mey Vann, the financial industry director at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said on Monday that currently almost 200 casinos have been issued with licences.

Most of them were located in Preah Sihanouk province, with the rest situated along the Kingdom’s borders.

He said online gambling was legal as it was included in the licences of the casinos.

Around 30 casinos, he said, were awaiting approval this year after submitting applications to the ministry.

He said those applications may not be approved due to the new directive.

A licence was valid for one year, with the casino owner able to renew it, he said.

“We don’t just have licenses for online gambling. We provide licenses to casinos so that they can construct buildings and create jobs,” Vann said.

He said the new directive meant all casinos must stop online gambling at the end of the year but could otherwise operate as usual.

Preah Sihanouk administration spokesperson Kheang Phearum said licensed casinos in his province were regularly inspected.

He said online extortion had, in the past, been committed by criminals who had rented properties and guesthouse rooms.

“We regularly check these types of places and have cracked down on many cases linked to VoIP scamming,” he said.

Kong, the director-general of the General Department of Taxation, said on Monday that most online businesses did not register with the ministry.

He said the new directive was important in preventing such unregistered operations, adding that tax revenue paid to the state from this sector was very little.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said gambling did not create wealth but simply transferred it from one hand to another and was considered a vice in Cambodian society.

“When gambling becomes transnational, it can become a channel for money laundering and other transactions outside the international financial system.

“This could get out of control when our law enforcement officers lack expertise and are not known to be honest or efficient.

“Operators of such uncontrollable gambling, money laundering and transnational financial transactions could well create a powerful state within the state in Cambodia,” Mong Hay said.

Additional reporting by Hin Pisei

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • More Cambodians studying in US

    The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report. The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied

  • Banteay Meanchey gunfight sees 15 Thais arrested, three officers injured

    The Banteay Meanchey Military Police have arrested 15 Thai suspects and their accomplices after a gun battle between two Thai groups caused injuries to three police officers in the early hours of November 21, local authorities said. National Military Police spokesman Eng Hy said that according to

  • PM: Do not defile Tonle Sap swamp forest or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered police to arrest anyone – including government officials – involved with the deforestation of the flooded forests surrounding the Tonle Sap Lake because it is an area important to the spawning of many species of fish, among other reasons. Speaking in a