Cambodian Government Banning Online Gambling to Preserve Order

  • Ban applies to local and offshore license holders
  • Current license holders can continue to operate until it expires
  • Locals are not allowed to gamble, except on the national lottery
  • Police are working alongside Chinese authorities to crack down on illegal gambling operations
Cambodia flag against clear blue sky
The Cambodian government is banning online gambling operations in the country to try and maintain public order. [Image: Shutterstock]

Details of ban

Authorities in Cambodia are in the process of banning all local online gambling operations. They are doing so to try and preserve public order.

This directive came from the country’s Prime Minister Hun Sen. No more online gambling licenses will be issued for those operating inside or outside of the country. Current licensees can continue to operate until their license eventually expires. None of these licenses will be renewed.

Current licensees can continue to operate until their license eventually expires.

The reasoning behind this move is because: “Foreign criminals have taken refuge in the form of this gambling to cheat and extort money from victims, domestic and abroad, which affect the security, public order and social order.”

All forms of government will be taking strict measures on this issue. The police forces are already in the process of battling against illegal gambling operations. This has led to hundreds of arrests. 

Hundreds of nationals arrested

In one case, there were 127 Chinese nationals arrested in Sihanoukville last week. They are facing charges relating to the operation of an extortion and illegal online gambling ring. The local authorities were working alongside Chinese authorities on this issue. 

Local gamblers are not able to use offshore online gambling platforms. This is because only foreigners are allowed to gamble when they are in Cambodia. The country’s Interior Ministry gave a warning to locals that if they use these offshore platforms, they are opening themselves up to data theft and phishing scams. 

Chinese crackdown

Cambodia has been a major hub for a lot of online gambling platforms in the Asia-Pacific region. This is because the government was embracing the casino and gambling sector for some time. There are more than 160 active casino licenses in the country.

A lot of these operations use these licenses to launch gambling platforms which are close to the Chinese market. Gambling is illegal in mainland China, but it is legal in the Chinese territory of Macau.

The majority of the gambling operations in Cambodia have some form of Chinese influence. The main exception to this is the main Cambodia operator – NagaCorp.

NagaCorp holds a 70-year casino license in Cambodia and they are now looking to invest $4bn in a new casino resort. This will be in Phnom Penh, which is the country’s capital. The company already has two casino resorts in the capital city.

The main region for the gambling sector is Sihanoukville. The Chinese authorities have been working with other countries to stop online sites targeting their residents. 

The Philippines is another significant market for online gambling operations in the Asia-Pacific region and they have also been working alongside Chinese authorities to crack down on the illegal gambling sector.

Gambling success in Cambodia

Despite locals not being able to legally gamble, Cambodia has seen a lot of success with their gambling sector in recent years.

Locals can participate in the five lottery operations on offer. Up until 2009, they could also play slot machines, but this activity is now illegal for them. Despite this, there is a thriving black market for slot machines. 

The reason Cambodia’s gambling sector took off was that nearby nations like Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar all had gambling bans in place. Therefore, Cambodia saw a gap in the market. In 2018, the number of gambling facilities in the country grew from 98 to more than 150. 

The increase in tourism to Cambodia has gone hand in hand with the growth in the gambling sector. Employment, tax revenues and economic growth have all been major by-products of the sector’s success.