Gambling has surged in Cambodia this week during the Euro 2004 football tournament in Portugal, gaming officials said Tuesday.
The numbers of bettors at the country’s only sanctioned football bookmaker, Cambo Six, have increased at the chain’s 19 branches in Phnom Penh and one in Sihanoukville, head administrator Heng Say said Tuesday. He declined to say how many bets were placed through the chain daily.
Bangkok’s English-language daily newspaper The Nation reported Monday that more than 10,000 Thais entered Cambodia on Sunday to wager on the matches, which began Saturday and conclude July 4.
But on Monday, Cambodian Immigration Police denied reports of Thai gamblers flooding into the border town.
“No thousands of Thai citizens have flocked to Poipet to gamble on the football being played in Portugal. The number of Thais visiting Poipet is still the same,” said Men Tengly, immigration police chief for the Poipet border crossing.
The number of Thai visitors has remained at their normal levels of 300 to 500 a day, he added.
The only Cambo Six outlet in Poipet closed several months ago due to heavy competition from illegal bookies, Heng Say said.
In Phnom Penh, Municipal Police Chief Suon Chheangly said a recent surge in robberies could not be blamed soley on the frenzied betting surrounding Euro 2004.
Drug use, the usual level of gambling and duty-shirking judges are also problems, he said.
“The bad people were arrested, but the court released them and did not punish them according to their crime,” Suon Chheangly said.
“The drug users have no money to buy drugs, and the gamblers have no money to bet on football and other games, so they dare to rob.”
Heng Say also said he did not know whether the surge in robberies was related to gambling.
“It is the police’s investigation,” he said, “but Cambo Six is legal.”