Cambodia Will Cease Issuing Online Gaming Licenses – Report

Posted on: August 19, 2019, 11:21h. 

Last updated on: August 19, 2019, 12:14h.

Cambodia will stop giving out licenses for online gambling in an effort to curb criminal activity in Cambodia gaming operations, according to Xinhua, the state-run news agency in China.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said those with current online gambling licenses will not get them renewed by the East Asian nation. (Image: Ng Han Guan/Reuters)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said those with current licenses will not get them renewed, the report said. “The Royal Government stops granting … licenses to operate online gambling businesses inside and outside Cambodia from the day of signature on this directive onwards,” he was quoted by Xinhua on Sunday.

For valid license holders, they will be allowed to operate until the licenses are expired. After that, the Ministry of Economy and Finance will not renew their licenses anymore,” GGRAsia reported based on the Chinese news story.

The report also said that “some foreign criminals” ran “underground online gambling businesses” in Cambodia and “used them as a front to operate telecom scams in order to extort money from victims inside and outside the country.”

It appears to refer to frauds targeting ethnic Chinese gamblers, GGRAsia said.

The Khmer Times further reported the new policy will ban not only online gambling, but also “arcade gambling in the kingdom in a bid to safeguard security and public order.”

But it is unclear if the new policy will impact either “proxy” or “telebetting,” GGRAsia said. That is where gamblers — who are not present in a casino — can take part in a live gaming table in a land-based casino by the internet or phone.

Also, gamblers have taken part in remote play where games are streamed live from a studio rather than a brick and mortar casino. Players are located elsewhere and there is a risk for money laundering via such games, GGRAsia said.

Cambodia Issues New Gaming Licenses

In June, it was reported that Cambodia issued at least 13 new licenses for gaming venues so far this year. Many of the nation’s casinos never opened, while others are in different phases of construction.

Government officials from Cambodia approved a total of 163 licenses, but only 51 gaming venues are even operating, GGRAsia reported, citing an article in the Khmer Times.

A news report in January said a total of 150 licenses had been issued as of last December. That is a 53 percent jump over 2017.

Sophal Ear, a professor of diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College in Los Angeles who has written extensively on Cambodia, told in June that the “truth is no one’s talking about the reason for so many casinos — could it be money laundering?”

Many of the brick and mortar casinos in Cambodia are targeting patrons from China, as well as Chinese ethnic gamblers in the greater China region, or anyone with a foreign passport who can enter the casinos, Ear said.

Online Concerns

Also, the Khmer Times reported on Friday that Cambodia’s Interior Ministry warned online gamblers that they are at risk for phishing attacks and hacking.

Lieutenant General Hor Sam Ath, director of the ministry’s IT department, said some online gamblers were being drawn into illegal activities. That includes drug dealing.

“The authorities would like to appeal to all citizens to stay away from illegal online gambling,” Ath was quoted by the Times. “Our officers are now tracking crimes and addressing the issue carefully.”

Last month, the Nikkei Asian Review reported investigators were searching for money laundering in Sihanoukville Cambodia casinos. There are suspicions money laundering is linked to trafficking of illegal drugs.

Last month, Alvin Chau, the CEO of SunCity Group, apologized to the mainland China government for running online gambling operations from the Philippines and Cambodia that allegedly targeted Chinese citizens.

Earlier this month, the Chinese Embassy in Manila urged Philippine authorities to “take concrete and effective measures to prevent and punish” online casinos based in the country that target players in China and illegally employ Chinese citizens.

“A huge amount of Chinese funds has illegally flown out of China and into the Philippines, involving crimes such as cross-border money laundering through underground banking, which undermines China’s financial supervision and financial security,” the embassy said in a statement. “The fact that a large number of Chinese citizens are lured into illegal gambling has resulted in an increase in crime and social problems in China.”

There are sometimes concerns over the safety of visitors to Cambodia. A casino in Sihanoukville was accused in April of beating eight Chinese gamblers suspected by casino management of cheating.