A Chinese casino on the paradisaical Cambodian island of Koh Rong Samloem has been ordered to close after it was accused by provincial officials of deliberately pumping raw sewage into the sea.

Casinos in Sihanoukville — whose Otres Beach is seen here strewn with garbage — have overwhelmed the area over the past few years, transforming it into a Chinese gambling hub inside Cambodia and creating environmental problems, including the dumping raw sewage, which regularly washes ashore. (Image: southeastasiabackpacker.com)

Other complaints against the Jin Ding Hotel and Casino — which registered to do business on the island last April and has only been open a matter of months — include blaring out loud music on the beach and promoting illegal online gambling.

Radio Free Asia reports that the casino had become an increasing cause of concern for islanders — who, as Cambodian citizens, are themselves prohibited from gambling in the nation’s casinos — due to fears of lasting environmental damage and a negative impact on tourism, on which the island relies.

The island lies off the coast of the port town of Sihanoukville which has been transformed into a gambling hub over the last few years due to unfettered investment from Chinese operators, attracted by barely-existent gaming regulations and lax money-laundering controls.

Locals Overwhelmed

The rise of the casinos in such a short space of time has been nothing short of staggering — there are now around 70, and the vast majority have appeared in the past two years. This has fueled resentment among locals, who feel shut out of the casino business and overwhelmed by sudden waves of tourism and immigration.

Along with wealthy tourists flocking to the city are Chinese workers who staff the casinos. They now account for around 20 percent of Sihanoukville’s population and make little effort to integrate or learn the language, according to reports.

With most development projects run by Chinese, social dialogue usually does not happen,” Meas Ny, a political analyst in Cambodia, told Voa Cambodia this week. “They don’t care to ask about local concerns until huge impacts take place — and they solve it later.”

Locals complain the casinos have brought an increase in crime, as triads, largely regulated out of the Macau junket business, seek wild pastures new. Cambodia’s authoritarian government has made noises about toughening up its casino regulations, but is largely just happy to see the money roll in.

Provincial Authorities Fight Back

Casinos are springing up quicker than local officials can draw up regulations. But in the case of the Jin Ding, they have made a stand. Provincial authority spokesman Y Thearin told the Phnom Penh Post this week that 77 families on the island had filed complaints about the casino, which had been told to close by March 22.

Cambodian National Research Organisation director Sok Sokhom told The Post he applauded the decision and hoped similar measures would “rain down on other casinos who fail to abide by the law.”

“Implement measures like this strictly as a warning to owners of other hotels and buildings,” he said. “I also ask the authority to inspect all casinos, guesthouses, hotels, and important sites in order to prevent them doing as they please.”