The Cambodian government confirmed the ban on online gambling that will enter into force on January 1, 2020, after the Prime Minister of the country Hun Sen, ended the hopes of the operators that the measure could be postponed.
Sen said on Saturday that “in the days ahead, online gambling will disappear completely.” These comments from the prime minister ruined hopes that the government could reconsider the directive published in August, according to which all current online gaming licenses would be canceled at the end of the year and no new licenses will be issued in 2020.
Phnom Penh Post reviewed Prime Minister Hun Sen’s speech during the 8th Sea Festival in Kampot Province, in which he pointed out that “if Cambodia’s economy continues to depend on online gaming, Cambodian national security will be seen engaged”. Sen added that the country risks becoming “a paradise” for money laundering “by organized crime groups that will come to Cambodia to carry out their activities.”
Cambodia has issued dozens of casino licenses in recent years. This gave the right to licensed operators to launch online gambling sites. After the Philippines, Cambodia is the largest online gaming center in the Asia-Pacific region, whose sites are aimed at customers in mainland China.
The Cambodian finance minister in October warned that banning the local online gambling industry will affect government revenue. But on Saturday, the prime minister said that the impact on the local economy would be for a short time. He added that when the country gets rid of the crimes related to gambling, Cambodia will create stimuli for foreign investment in high-value projects other than gambling.
The Hun Sen directive launched in August was seen more as a response to China for its efforts to prevent neighbors’ gambling sites from allowing players from mainland China to participate. In return for this ban, China agreed to grant Cambodia “special discussions on subsidies to support the development” of non-gaming related projects in the Sihanoukville region, where a large percentage of Chinese-oriented gaming websites are located.
It has not yet been revealed how the Cambodian authorities will handle the application of the new ban, although it is believed that China will help the country in this regard. China’s state media has urged neighboring countries to join efforts to eliminate unauthorized online gambling with the subsequent “long-term benefits of local economies.”