President of the E-Sports Federation of Cambodia (EFC) Chea Chanboribo expressed concerns over the development of esports in the Kingdom, saying the sport still faces many challenges despite its inclusion in the upcoming 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games 2023 in Cambodia.

He said that although it is recognised by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC), and has become a full member of the E-Sports Federations of Asia, ASEAN and the World, there is a lack of understanding about the division between esports and certain online gambling practices. If not managed carefully, this could lead to the blacklisting of esports in Cambodia.

“Esports are taken very seriously in most of the world, and this year will be the third time they have been included in the SEA Games. Before the format found favour as a serious sport, it was often used as the basis for gambling, and unfortunately some people till view it that way,” said the president, who is also a secretary of state for the Ministry of Information.

“We are concerned about gambling. This is why the EFC scrutinises all events closely. If we are lax and not organised enough, esports could be blacklisted, which would be a serious issue,” he added.

Chanboribo also expressed concern that some organisations from abroad could use esports competitions to launder money. He therefore called on companies and institutions that wish to hold competitions to contact the federation.

“We have seen several companies from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore use Cambodia as an esports business market. The EFC is paying close attention to these tournaments to make sure they are not being used for nefarious purposes. Every event needs to be carefully examined to prevent harm to the reputation of our sport,” he said.

Chanboribo was addressing the closing ceremony of the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang esports competition in Phnom Penh on February 26.

The event was held to select the Kingdom’s representatives for the May SEA Games. Both men’s and women’s teams will compete.

A total of 179 male teams entered the tournament, which began on February 17, while 22 women’s teams competed.

In the February 26 men’s finals, Burn x Flash defeated CFU Gaming 3-1 to become champions. Earlier that day, DG Angelz beat CFU Serendipity 3-1 to become women’s champions.

Lun Samedy, secretary-general of the EFC, said the champion sides would not necessarily go on to represent the Kingdom.

“A panel of federation experts and our coaching staff will evaluate the strongest individual team members of the each team that made the final four rounds of the tournament. This means that some players who were eliminated may still have a chance to represent Team Cambodia,” he added.