PARLIAMENT has unanimously approved legislation aimed at cracking down on illegal
gambling by imposing prison sentences and fines on violators.
"This law will outlaw all gambling houses that have been authorized by previous
administrations," Co-Interior Minister You Hockry said in reference to establishments
operating gaming tables under agreements with the pre-May 1993 socialist government.
The government last year signed an agreement with the Ariston company of Malaysia
granting it exclusive rights to operate casinos in Cambodia while the authorities
forced nine other prominent Phnom Penh gambling houses to close down in September.
The Holiday International has managed to keep its tables open under its pre-1993
election agreement while others have quietly reopened and scores of small dens still
tout for clients in the absence of laws.
When asked whether the new law would affect the Holiday, Hockry said: "If we
respect the law, I think that must close too."
The law passed provides for jail terms of up to five years and a maximum fine of
50 million riels for anyone convicted of running an illegal gambling center, while
punters at such houses face a fine and up to a year in prison.
The legislation also penalizes those who import or sell equipment that can be used
for illegal gambling and authorizes the government to seize any property and assests
of establishments busted by the authorities.
Any officials who protect or authorize the opening of a gambling den or casino face
fines and imprisonment of up to five years.
"It's a good law," said Tourism Minister Veng Sereyvuth, whose ministry
has helped draft a complimentary casino law that has yet to be tabled before Parliament.
Hockry, who reckoned the new law would have a positive effect on society, said the
casino law would enshrine the principle of barring Cambodians from licensed casinos.