City Hall Reiterates Slot Machine Restrictions

The reminder by Phnom Penh Mu­nicipality that electronic gaming is only permitted in hotels has not alarm­ed Diplomat Cafe and En­­ter­tainment Centers.

“We are in the process of reno­va­­ting and adding hotel facilities up­stairs,” said Tang Weng Che­ong, ma­na­ger of the Phnom Penh-bas­ed company. “We operate every­thing legally.”

The municipality issued an an­nounce­ment June 30, reminding all bu­sinesses offering slot ma­chine gaming that it is permitted “only in ho­tels, not allowed to open be­sides this place, not allowed to open bran­­ches and cannot allow Cam­bo­dian na­tionals to play.”

The Diplomat centers currently of­­fer an upscale coffee shop in front and a limited number of elec­tron­ic ga­ming machines behind frost­ed glass doors.

The three locations are owned by Malaysian investors. Tang said the Malaysian firm Ariston, the ow­ner of the Naga casino, does not own Diplomat, though he did not say who does own the chain.

“They came here as investors. If we wanted to confront the government we would not have set up shop on Main Street,” Tang said.

He said he does not know if the com­­­pany has a specific license to op­e­rate slot machines, nor could he say for sure whether Cam­bo­dians have been prevented from playing at the locations in the past.

“We have not received formal com­­­munication from the municipality,” Tang said of the restriction against Cambodians playing or of the need to obtain permission to op­erate. “We have never received a let­ter…We read about this only in the media.”

Tang said that only a small amount of Diplomat revenue comes from slot machines and that the company is registered with the Fi­nance and Commerce Min­istries to operate as a company.

The June 30 announcement says that gaming businesses must ob­tain specific permission from the mu­nicipality, must have licenses for the machines and specific per­mis­sion from the Royal Gov­ern­ment.

Um Sotha, director of the Mu­ni­ci­pal Commerce Department, said Mon­day that certification from the mu­nicipality only comes after high­er level permission is ob­tain­ed.

“The municipality released the an­nouncement in order to inform il­legal gambling parlors throughout the city that are running slot gamb­ling outside of hotels, and those running them inside hotels, that they must contact the Council of Minis­ters, Commerce Ministry and Fi­nance Ministry immediately to ob­tain a license,” he said.

Um Sotha could not say how much a permit costs but said it was a large sum.

Hotel Association President Chris Ho welcomed the clarification of slot machine licensing pro­ce­dures this week and said all ho­tels should apply.

“The hotel where I work, the Preah Khan in Siem Reap, has slot ma­­chines because there is nothing to do in town after 8 pm. It is a ser­vice for clients like providing Ping-Pong,” he said. “I think more ho­tels should apply for licenses. It is a way to keep clients at the hotel and make more money.”

 

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