Illegal World Cup Betting Booms Despite Police Raids

Business has been in full swing for bookmakers cashing in on the FIFA World Cup around Phnom Penh this week despite police officials claiming they were planning to put a stop to any illegal gambling prior to the competition.

Betting slips were being filled out in the open at a crowded cafe on the corner of Street 63 and Street 282 on Monday evening, while a bag full of slips was hanging at the front of the “344” electronics shop on Monivong Boulevard with a bookmaker sitting nearby.

Despite the apparent apathy of the authorities toward the flouting of anti-gambling laws, 13 people were arrested during a raid on an Internet cafe on Monday and three others were detained in a separate bust in Svay Rieng City on the same day.

Phnom Penh deputy police chief Chuon Narin said Tuesday the size of the raid on the Internet cafe on the outskirts of the city was an indication that police were making an effort to root out illegal gambling rings.

“You think this is a small place?” he said. “I directly ordered the crackdown on this shop and we seized 13 computers.”

But elsewhere in the city, police seemed less determined to prevent punters from placing bets.

Chenda, 35, who filled out a betting slip in broad view of the bustling Street 63 on Monday evening, said he had no worries of being caught.

“I’m not worried at all because the bookies have their connections and people behind them,” he said. “If they arrested the bookie, it would stop the gambling.”

Brigadier General Kheng Tito, spokesman for the National Military Police, denied that police are turning a blind eye to some illegal World Cup gambling, blaming lower level officials for not implementing the law.

“There might be some secret gambling…but sometimes it depends on the lower officials. If they don’t perform their duty and do not report, there’s nothing we can do,” he said. “We will crack down if there is a crime with proof.”

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