As authorities yesterday began inspecting the Kingdom’s casinos, the Interior Ministry reported that none had been found to be illegally operating online or arcade gambling following a ban which kicked in this year.
The ministry’s anti-commercial gambling department began a three-day inspection push yesterday after the ban, first announced by Prime Minister Hun Sen in August, became effective.
Lieutenant General Sien Sen, director of the department, yesterday said casinos inspected so far have been adhering to the new ban.
“We started our inspection campaign…and so far, we have not yet found any illegal online gambling operations,” Lt Gen Sen said. “Some of those casinos ceased their [online gambling] operations while others are still being inspected.”
“We need three days to inspect each casino in the country. Our joint committee is still working on it,” he added. “We are only cracking down on online and arcade gambling operations, which are illegal.”
Mr Hun Sen issued the ban as a way to stymie growing crimes linked to gambling debts, including kidnapping and extortion. Following his August announcement, thousands of gamblers fled the country.
The number of licensed casinos also dropped from 163 in June to 136, as of last month, according to the Finance Ministry.
Days before the directive became effective, the anti-commercial gambling department said 91 of the 136 were operating online or arcade gambling.
Lt Gen Sen noted that General Neth Savoeun, chief of the National Police, earlier this week invited casino representatives to a meeting to warn them of the incoming ban.
“He called on all casino owners to cooperate with the government order,” he said. “They have been cooperating well with our authorities. Most of the casinos in the Kingdom are owned by Chinese people and are located in Sihanoukville.”
“I think they understand the government’s directive banning all online and arcade gambling operations,” he added. “Prime Minister Hun Sen has already publicly announced the ban and the Finance Ministry has already informed each casino about the matter. The ministry told them to voluntarily cease operations themselves.”
The majority of the Kingdom’s casinos are located in Preah Sihanouk province, where there are now more than 70 casinos left, mostly owned by Chinese investors, according to Kheang Phearom, a spokesman for the Provincial Hall.
The General Department of Immigration on Tuesday said about 447,000 Chinese nationals have left the Kingdom since the ban was announced in August.
Mr Phearom said authorities did not come across online or arcade gambling operations in the province during inspections yesterday.
“We have three working groups working on it and provincial authorities are currently inspecting casinos,” he said. “We will provide more details after the inspections are done.”
Mr Phearom said inspections have been smooth thus far.
“I have noted that our first day of inspections has been smooth – we have not come across any obstacles because casino managers and owners are cooperating,” he said.