More than 60 Cambodians and foreigners from around the region remained in custody at the Interior Ministry on Monday for questioning over an alleged online gambling operation they ran in Phnom Penh.
The ministry’s anti-terrorism police raided three villas in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district on Friday and arrested 30 Cambodian nationals, 14 Malaysians, seven Indonesians, six Chinese, five Thai and five Vietnamese nationals for their involvement with the online casino.
“Right now, all my colleagues are questioning all the arrested people to find out what type of games were being played,” said Major General Y Sokkly, director of the anti-terrorism police department, declining to provide more details. “No one has been released.”
According to an official at the anti-terrorism unit, who declined to be named as he is not authorized to speak to the press, local gamblers were being connected online with casinos based abroad.
“The gamblers link up to the overseas casinos and they gamble using bank accounts that they have set up,” said the official, declining to reveal names or say where the international casinos were based.
Cyber casinos can operate via video link-up, where local players are able to gamble on live tables in other countries, while the cash needed to participate in the games can be deposited directly into bank accounts held by website operators to facilitate the online business. Such gambling is in a murky legal area here as Cambodia has not passed any specific legislation regulating it and companies are known to provide such services here.
Maj. Gen. Sokkly said on Monday that the authorities have never encountered online gambling before and this was the first such raid for such an operation.
In the upscale Boeng Keng Kang I commune, one of the raided houses—a whitewashed villa decorated with golden motifs—sits on Street 306 surrounded by high gates. A security guard working at the home next-door said he spoke to the guard of the raided villa often about its tenants. According to the security guard, 10 people lived in the double-story villa, which cost about $3,000 to rent per month. He said they were all of different nationalities.
“Many clients would go in, but they would usually stay inside the whole day,” said the guard who asked that his name not be revealed for security reasons.
“They had many different kinds of games, including betting on football. They also had a code number and could bet using an online bank account,” he added.