With Operators Hanging Around Cambodia Post-Crackdown, Game is Still on for China Players

Published October 2, 2019 by Lee R

With Operators Hanging Around Cambodia Post-Crackdown, Game is Still on for China Players

The legislative process in Cambodia makes a hard-line ban on gambling hard to enforce.

A rumored China-backed online gaming crackdown in Cambodia may not be as straightforward as initially suspected.

China Reporter Doubts Exodus

The doubts have been raised by state-run People's Daily reporter Lin Jiaxu, who was quoted Wednesday by Chinese state-run media outlet Global Times disputing reports that Chinese nationals were fleeing Cambodia hubs such as Sihanoukville by the tens of thousands.

Extent of Discouraged Operators

Chinese nationals were believed to control some ¾ of the casinos in Sihanoukville alone, along with untold influence over the remainder of the Cambodia jurisdiction, motivated to serve the massive Chinese gambling market crosses borders to play because of the ban on online gambling in mainland China.

Real Numbers

Lin disputes the rumor, placing the number of Chinese nationals who had left Cambodia since last month's ban at “about 3,000 to 5,000,” while castigating the practice of moving to Cambodia to offer gaming to Chinese nationals as a “shortcut to wealth via cheating and extortion.”

Shut Not So Down

The implementation of the shutdown seems to be stalling already: Cambodia Ministry of Economy and Finance deputy director Ros Phearun told the Nikkei Asian Review the government is “not sure yet if it’s an absolute ban or not.”

Legislative Confirmation?

Phearun indicated that ban enforcement depends on passage of long delayed gambling draft law, legislation the Cambodian government has been promising for the better part of a decade, with the current stated deadline being early next year.

So, any Cambodia gaming ban cannot be officially in place until 2020.

Higher Official Says Ban is On

However, director-general Mey Vann, who outranks Phearun, responded to Nikkei that the ban is already in effect, calling it “definitive” with Cambodian officials not wanting “the market doubting and waiting.”


The optics here indicate that Cambodia is trying to placate the heavily anti-gaming Chinese government, but enforcing the ban without the due process of the country's legislative body still makes the newly announced ban a tough promise to keep.

If any kind of delay is palpable, Chinese operators would clearly be in no hurry to vacate their positions in Cambodia, as the Chinese patrons that make up so much of Cambodia's gaming market will continue to stream over the border to any neighbouring jurisdiction to play.

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