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No Legal Backing for Casino Closures: Lawmaker


While the closures of slot machine and sports gambling sites are a welcome change to Cambodia, the way they were closed was outside the law and should be reviewed, an opposition lawmaker said Monday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen recently ordered the closure of Cambo Six sites, which were popular for sports betting, as well as slot machines that had found their ways into many hotels in the capital.

"We were asking this for years," Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Son Chhay said, as a guest on "Hello VOA." "But the measure is strange and unlawful, because it proves this practice was done by decisions of power, not decisions of the judiciary."

So even if the gambling shut-down was good for Cambodia, decision-making outside the law could keep potential investors away, he said.

Meanwhile, he said, even though Cambo Six sites were closed, betting could be secretly practiced at the one casino in Phnom Penh that has avoided closure for years, Naga.

"We will lodge complaints against Naga if we find this true" he said.

Sports betting is still being done over the Internet, and the orders have not stamped out overnight the Cambodian penchant for gambling, Son Chhay said.

More than most countries in the world, Cambodians love to bet, "including betting on soccer, betting on boxing, betting on the rain and on cock fighting," he said. "Therefore, this phenomenon causes banditry, family crises and social insecurity."

The closure order was not backed by any law making investment in casinos and other gambling sites illegal, Son Chhay said, adding that around 40 casinos are still operating on the borders of Vietnam and Thailand.

Responding to a caller's question, Son Chhay said state revenue from casinos over the last three years exceeded $10 million, "but foreign investors took more than $300 million, $400 million, per year from our country and our citizens."

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