The General Department of Immigration yesterday reported that tens of thousands of Chinese nationals left the Kingdom before the end of last year since the ban on online and arcade gambling was announced by Prime Minister Hun Sen in August.
Mr Hun Sen said the ban is needed because some licenced online and arcade gambling operations rigged their games and threatened those who are not able to repay their debts.
The ban came into effect on January 1 and a joint committee composed of ministry and police officials began to crack down on online and arcade gambling operations across the Kingdom.
“In 2019, the number of foreigners staying for a long term in the Kingdom drastically increased, especially Chinese nationals who came to work in casinos,” General Kirth Chantharith, director-general of GDI, said yesterday at the GDI annual meeting held at the Interior Ministry. “We provided [long term] visas to about 450,000 foreigners to stay in our country, and 70 percent of them were Chinese.”
“This number dramatically decreased after the Royal Government announced the ban on all online gambling in August,” he said. “[From August] to the end of 2019, more than 200,000 Chinese nationals left the Kingdom.”
The Finance Ministry’s industrial finance department reported there were 163 licenced casinos in June across the Kingdom, but the number decreased to 136 earlier this month.
Ros Phearun, deputy director-general of the department, yesterday said there are now 118 licenced casinos, including 56 in Sihanoukville.
“[Casino workers from China] left due to a decline in casino revenue following the government ban,” Mr Phearun said.
Yov Khemara, director of the Preah Sihanouk provincial labour department, previously reported about 7,700 people became unemployed after the closure of the 56 Sihanoukville casinos.
The Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Preah Sihanouk said 40 Chinese companies promised to hire laid-off casino workers.
Khun Tharo, a programme manager for the Alliance of Labour and Human Rights, yesterday said even though the mass departure of Chinese nationals will affect tourism and tax revenue, the government must continue to crack down on online and arcade gambling operations to reduce crime.
“Even if it affects the tourism sector, we will benefit through crime reduction,” Mr Tharo said. “Online gambling is dangerous. If [the Chinese nationals] came here to do good business then that would be fine, but they came, invested in online gambling and conducted money laundering.”