King Norodom Sihamoni has promulgated a long-awaited gambling law that aims to create jobs, boost the economy and bolster tourism as well as establish safeguards against money laundering and corruption.
The law, which will dictate how casinos and gambling operators conduct business, has 12 chapters and 97 articles. It was passed by the National Assembly on October 5 and endorsed by the Senate on October 26.
The law was written to manage commercial gaming centres, like casinos, and all commercial gaming activities in the Kingdom. Article 1 of the law maintains that it will help protect social safety and security as well as boost the economy and generate tax revenue.
Called the Law on the Management of Integrated Resorts and Commercial Gambling (LMCG), the law sets forth the authority and procedures for managing commercial gaming and the rights and duties of individuals and entities that own and operate gaming businesses.
Article 4 states that a Cambodia Commercial Games Committee (CCGC), which consists of 11 members from different ministries and chaired by the Minister of Economy and Finance, will govern the gaming sector, issuing policies and regulations as well as conducting inspections, providing licences and collecting income.
It will also be charged with taking action against those commercial game operators who break the law.
The law lays out the responsibilities that gaming operators must honour in the fight against money laundering, bribery, corruption and the financing of terrorism. Gaming operators must keep strict accounting records and submit them to the committee for scrutiny.
Article 54 states: “Commercial game operators must have bookkeeping according to the standard accounting, which describes the operation and financial status of its commercial games. Bookkeeping must ensure that financial report preparation is correct with clear dates.
“It must also effectively ease the review, investigation, and auditing on financial reports.”
The law maintains that Cambodians are still not legally allowed to enter casinos.
Article 68 of the law states: “All Cambodian people, including members of the armed forces, public servants and elected officials, are banned from entering casinos or commercial game facilities to gamble.”
The CCGC has the authority to inspect material and record voices from closed-circuit television cameras installed at casinos and other commercial gaming centres. Article 80 bans all automated teller machines, or ATMS, from casinos and commercial gaming centres.
Pech Pisey, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said establishing a legal framework was just a first step in managing the gambling industry and preventing money laundering. He said Cambodia still faces significant gaps in law enforcement and lacks of effective mechanisms to enforce the law.
“Corruption in Cambodia remains widespread. And corruption remains an enabling factor behind the problems around money laundering, which continues to undermine the rule of law in Cambodia,” he said.
Hong Vannak, an economic researcher at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said most countries allow casinos and integrated commercial games. The sector helps their economy by reducing the outflow of money and attracting income to the country through tourism, he said.
Vannak said the impact of commercial and integrated gaming was more positive than negative, citing the tax generated for the state and jobs created. He continued that demand from casinos and commercial game centres would help Cambodia’s agricultural sector in addition to boosting real estate.
But he also cautioned against the negative aspects of commercial gaming, especially if Cambodians are allowed to gamble.
“In short, we see more positive than negative if we can control this sector. If we cannot control it, the negative aspect will come out. That’s why some countries have many policies to allow just a specific number [of casinos] at specific locations.
“Cambodia established the area along the borders for building casinos and allows some in Phnom Penh. This is another strategy to control the sector,” he said.