Cambodian authorities stall on renewing 83 casino licenses

Casinos in Sihanoukville, Cambodia

The Cambodian government is yet to renew the operating licenses of a total of 83 casinos in the country.

According to the country’s gambling regulator, the casinos with the pending renewal have not met with some of the stipulations for licensing, including the ability to meet capital requirements as stated in the country’s commercial gambling laws. So far, out of a total of 171 casino operators that applied to have their licenses renewed, only 87 have been certified, while one casino operator has been outrightly denied by the Cambodian government.

According to Ros Phearun, Secretary-General of the Commercial Gambling Management Commission of Cambodia, most of the casinos with pending license renewal did not have their documentation in order and as such were not eligible to be opened for visitors. Though the Secretary-General did not specify which of the stipulations the casinos are yet to fulfil, it is safe to say one of them is the required minimum capital mandated by the government.

In 2021, the Cambodian government enacted a sub-decree that stated all casinos, including new and existing standalone casinos or casinos within integrated resorts (IRs), are to have a fixed amount of capital. The minimum capital consists of the current assets of the operator including shareholder funds deposited with the company and fixed assets such as the property the casino operates from, all coming to a tune of KHR400 billion for non-IR casinos. For IR casinos, their current and fixed assets must amount to a minimum of KHR800 billion. These figures have been verified by a Cambodian law firm, Rajah & Tann Asia.

Out of all the gaming venues in the country, only NagaWorld in Phnom Penh is said to be an IR casino. Others are standalone casinos mostly operating in Sihoukanville, along the Cambodia-Vietnam border and the Cambodia-Thai border.

Though the total number of casinos in Cambodia stands around 171, it used to be over 200 as of 2020. However, due to the pandemic and the tightened gaming laws in the country, the numbers have steadily declined. This has fostered illegal gambling establishments, but the government is on top of that too.

While addressing the public at the opening of a new school building in Battambang province, the Minister of Interior, Sar Kheng, noted that the government will not stop bringing down the full weight of the law on illegal casinos across the country. He reiterated that unregulated gambling leads to crimes such as money laundering, kidnapping, human trafficking, drug offenses, arms trafficking, and so on.

In a direct statement to the law enforcement in the country, Kheng said: “I would suggest that local authorities actively inspect any suspected gambling dens and do not wait for your superiors to shout at you about it. We have the ‘safe village-commune policy, so do your jobs in accordance with the law.”

In that same vein, while in a meeting with law enforcement, the deputy governor of Phnom Penh also enjoined all government officials to stay away from illegal gambling and to join the government’s efforts on cracking down on illegal casinos and pawnshops. He added that officials must maintain the peace and see that illegal gambling establishments are flushed out from the immediate vicinity. This will go a long way in fulfilling the government’s vision of seeing Cambodia with a low crime rate.