Xinhua, a Chinese state news agency, reported on Sunday – quoting a directive from Cambodia’s prime minister, Hun Sen – that the Southeast Asian country would no longer issue licences to online gambling businesses. The report further stated all such existing licences will not be renewed once they expire.
“The Royal Government stops granting principles and licences to operate online gambling businesses inside and outside Cambodia from the day of signature on this directive onwards,” stated the directive, quoted by Xinhua.
The document added: “For valid licence holders, they will be allowed to operate until the licences are expired. After that, the Ministry of Economy and Finance will not renew their licences anymore.”
Xinhua’s report mentioned as one spur for the move that “some foreign criminals have run underground online gambling businesses here [in Cambodia] and used them as a front to operate telecom scams in order to extort money from victims inside and outside the country.”
That was understood to be a reference to frauds aimed typically at ethnic Chinese consumers.
“Some foreigners have used this form of gambling to cheat victims inside and outside the country,” reported separately on Monday the Khmer Times newspaper, quoting the prime minster’s directive.
That news outlet said the initiative involved “banning all online and arcade gambling in the kingdom in a bid to safeguard security and public order”.
In addition to frauds mentioned by Xinhua, the volume of Chinese money being invested recently in gaming and hotel businesses in the Cambodian seaside resort of Sihanoukville has received widespread publicity.
The Xinhua report did not clarify whether the action against “online gambling” would also affect so-called “proxy” or telebetting”. In some scenarios such gambling can be offered at a live gaming table in a licensed bricks and mortar casino – either via the Internet or voice phone service – to players not physically present in the casino.
Another form of “online gambling” involves studios that are not traditional casinos, but which stream live table games to players offshore. A number of legal experts spoken to by GGRAsia has said that any form of gambling involving remote play can be an anti-money laundering risk because it is harder for the gaming operator to be sure about the source of the funds gambled and the identity of the player.
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Vitaly Umansky, Tianjiao Yu and Kelsey Zhu
Analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd