Civic groups in Cambodia working in social development are
urging the authorities to immediately close gambling facilities, which are
taking away the daily incomes of simple people and high-ranking officials
Seng Theary, executive director of the Center for Social
Development, called gambling a social virus that leads to theft, domestic
violence and increased poverty.
“I suggest the authorities close down the gambling sites, as
we have already seen that gambling is like a dangerous disease, in the family
and in society,” she said.
Cambodia has an estimated 30 to 50 large casinos and up to
100 smaller sites, most of them set up in hotels, night clubs, bars and discos
in Phnom Penh. These operate along with sports gambling facilities, kickboxing
matches and lotteries.
Cambodia loses millions of dollars a year to gambling, while
people spend time betting instead of working and overall production and the
economy suffers, said Son Chhay, parliamentarian for the opposition Sam Rainsy
“It is such a waste of time,” he said. “Our country is an
impoverished country, so we need labor to produce.”
Phnom Penh Police Chief Touch Naroth said sports betting was
permitted, but there is only one casino in Phnom Penh, Naga, which doesn’t
allow Cambodians inside.
“Besides Naga casino, there are only slot machines in the
hotels,” he said. “These are only electronic machines.”
Hun Sen has meanwhile ordered a crackdown on slot machines
and a ban on gambling by Cambodians, an order local authorities are following.
However, Son Chhay urged the closing of all gambling
establishments, including sports betting.
Foreign companies are collecting hundreds of millions of
dollars from Cambodia, he said, adding that the companies bribe high-ranking
police and military officials to protect their businesses.