In Phnom Penh, tables and chairs sit in front of anonymous buildings with no signs above them. They might be cafés but for the white boards that stand outside, listing upcoming soccer matches, teams and odds—and the gamblers.
Not just small betting businesses are thriving in the capital. Sophisticated venues like CamboSix, a well-advertised, licensed business, provide gambling in full swing, with computers, tables and chairs welcoming the hopefuls, betting slips in hand.
Increasingly, these gamblers are students.
On a recent night, one of these, a student at the Management Institute who asked not to be named, told VOA he had come to bet on soccer, which he watches on TV5 or CTN. Sometimes he wins a little, he said, sometimes nothing at all. Others watch soccer matches obsessively, watching cable TV as early as 3 am. Some students reportedly have gone into heavy debt by borrowing big and losing big.
Sean Long, a clerk at an Internet at Heng Ly Market and a father. He worries, he said, about his 18-year-old son, a student at Endra Tevi High School. Ly's son was beginning to run with gangs and has now turned to gambling as a pastime.
Ly's son doesn't do anything at home except watch sports on TV, Ly said, imploring Prime Minister Hun Sen to help. There are harder problems to solve, he said, so Hun Sen should be able to get rid of gambling.
Phnom Penh Police Chief Touch Naroth was unavailable for comment.
Ho Van, a legislator for the Sam Rainsy Party, said education was a critical part of the solution. Students should learn values at school and at home, but the government also needs to eradicate the habit, he said.