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Everything You Should Know About Cambodia’s Crackdown on Online Gambling

Cambodia has cracked down on online gambling in order to preserve public order and ensure safety and security. But what does the new policy really mean?

Cambodia’s dream to become Asia’s next gambling destination was in full gear, as investors raced to set up land-based casinos and acquire online gambling licenses.

But as if waking up from a nightmare, the Cambodian government quickly withdrew its support for the iGaming sector. Here are 5 important points everyone should know about Cambodia’s crackdown on online gambling:

#1 No more new online gambling licenses will be issued.

Last Aug. 18, Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that the government would no longer issue online gambling licenses within and outside the country effective immediately, saying:

“The Royal Government stops granting…licenses to operate online gambling businesses in and out of Cambodia from the day of the signing of this directive onwards.”

Other than the suspension of the issuance of new licenses, the new policy also means that existing licenses will not be renewed. Existing licenses, however, will be allowed to expire.

Therefore, land-based casinos that maintain online gambling operators will need to shut down their online casino. Failure to do so will be a direct noncompliance with the law.

#2 Over 160 licenses will become void.

According to CalvinAyre.com, the government issued 52 new licenses in 2018, with another set of 13 within the first four months of 2019. The surge in number of issued casino licenses since last year brought the total to 163, most of which are for online gambling.

Reports say that majority of these licenses are based in Sihanoukville region. This was confirmed by the Financial Industry Department Deputy Director-General Ros Phearun of the Ministry of Finance. He said that almost 60 percent of total number of casino licenses would operate in the said region.

With the new policy, all online gambling licenses will soon be of no use after their expiry.

#3 New policy will safeguard the Cambodian people.

The Prime Minister’s announcement happened after the country’s Interior Ministry had issued a warning. This warning focused on the security and safety of the local people, who may be victimized by data theft and phishing schemes.

Cambodia forbids locals to engage in gambling, but the Ministry said there are still some locals who have access to offshore gambling sites. This is the very reason — to maintain public order — given by the Prime Minister as to why he signed and issued the new directive.

A few days after the new directive was signed, meanwhile, local police arrested 127 Chinese nationals for allegedly running an extortion ring and illegal online gambling operation.

#4 Others link the incident to China’s efforts to combat offshore gambling.

With recent news of China pushing the Philippine government to stop online gambling, some view Cambodia’s crackdown as a nod to the Chinese government.

China is actively addressing the concern that more Chinese nationals work for Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO) that target the Chinese market.

The same can be said in Cambodia as an increasing number of Chinese nationals reportedly have begun residing in Sihanoukville since 2016. Sihanoukville Mayor Y Sokleng in a report estimated that about 80,000 Chinese nationals live in the coastal city as of July 2019.

#5 Stricter, more-regulated land-based gambling may come next.

While the Prime Minister’s new policy focused on online gambling, the land-based gambling sector in Cambodia may also experience changes. Speculations of a more regulated offline gambling industry spread as a response to the recent crackdown on online gambling.

Although no one is certain yet of the next developments, representatives from the Ministry of Economy and Finance in Cambodia will provide new information regarding the issue at the upcoming Mekong Gaming Summit on 10-11 September in Phnom Penh.

Other gaming leaders and experts in Asia and other countries will also attend the event organized by Asia Gaming Brief and sponsored by Asia Live Tech, BetConstruct, Betradar, All-In Global, Novomatic, San Marco Capital Partners, and more.

Mekong Gaming Summit extends with a tour to Sihanoukvilleon on 12-13 September.

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