As European and Asian football leagues kick into life each weekend, so too does Phnom Penh’s gambling community. Now they no longer have to place their bets in clandestine gambling houses.
The bettors—almost all male and increasingly teen-agers—may now make their wagers at Royal Cambodia Goals, the country’s first government-sanctioned football betting establishment. Goals, opened Feb 2, is run by the Cambo Six investment group. Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara and a spokesmen for the Ministry of Information both said they did not know who the investors are.
Chea Sophara said gambling on football has been legalized. He declined to comment on the issue because “this is something that the central government decided, and I am not clear on this issue.”
Oum Darawuth, secretary of state for the Ministry of Information, said betting on football was approved by the Council of Ministers. “There is a proper paper released by the Council of Ministers that allows them to manage this type of business,” he said, adding that he has not seen the decree.
Patrons tend to bet on heavy favorites. This may contribute to the fact that bettors have reported difficulties in collecting. “It is very difficult to get money when there are many winners,” said a 20-year-old gambler who declined to be identified. Another gambler said he had to wait two hours before receiving his winnings.
While sports gamblers may be happy their pastime is out in the open, others are not as pleased. “It is now affecting the studies of students on the secondary and primary levels. They are stealing property and they lie to their parents, and it is due to football betting,” said Heav Veasna, managing director of the Center for Social Development.