The Ministry of Finance has issued a directive ordering the immediate closure of gambling houses operating illegal gaming machines, according to a statement signed by Finance Minister Keat Chhon.
The statement, dated Sept 12, said that a newly formed inter-ministerial body will investigate and punish those that do not comply with the directive, which is effective immediately.
“If the [Finance] Ministry directive is not followed, an inter-ministeral committee of the ministries of Finance and Interior and local authorities will shut down and confiscate those gambling machines,” the statement read. “The ministry wants gaming machine operators to halt business activity immediately from today.” It added that the government views these illegal establishments as having a deleterious effect on young Cambodians and public order in general.
Finance Ministry Secretary of State Chea Peng Chheang, who is in charge of monitoring casinos and betting operations for the ministry, estimated that there were hundreds of illegal gaming machine operations in business across Cambodia.
“I think the government doesn’t profit at all from the gaming machine industry,” he said.
Most gaming parlors operate in the immediate vicinity of schools, Chea Peng Chheang said, but added that the ministry was not sure of the exact number that were doing so.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said that the focus of the new campaign was to eliminate unlicensed businesses, which often allow patrons to gamble using video game-style machines.
The ministry will not be targeting slot machine halls or casinos that have received licenses from the government, Khieu Sopheak said, adding that Cambodian’s are not allowed to gamble at legal operations either.
(Additional reporting by John Maloy)