Official Says Police Confuse Gaming, Gambling

Police are apparently confused about the difference between gam-bling and gaming, a government official said Thursday, adding that establishments catering to com-puter game enthusiasts should ex-plain the distinction clearly to pol-ice to settle any misunderstanding. 

Phu Leewood, secretary general for the National Information Com-munications Technology Develop-ment Authority, said the mix-up may explain why police have shuttered shops running the role-playing Internet game Justice X-war 2. He recommended affected owners speak to police and find a solution.

“Gambling is betting, while gaming is not,” he said at a news conference Thursday for the upcoming Cambodia ICT World Expo. “I used to play games a lot when I was at university [in America].”

Since Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Feb 24 edict to ban gambling, pol-ice have closed about two dozen establishments offering the online game, citing the ban as the reason for the closure despite the fact no gambling is involved.

Phu Leewood said playing video games can even provide some positive benefits, such as better hand-eye coordination and faster reaction times.

Though he did not promise any help, company officials who posed the question to Phu Leewood at the Expo said they were pleased with his response and understanding.

“His answer was positive,” said Sum Chanborith, marketing manager for CIDC Information Tech-nology, the local company that licensess the game in Cambodia.

Players of JX2 navigate online personas through a fantasy world, teaming up with other gamers to complete missions and battle enemies, said Mike Gaertner, chief operating officer for the company.

He said shop owners offering the online role-playing game first complained of the closures on Feb 27, saying police would walk into their business and shutter it without delay.

Officers dismissed the owners’ protest that no gambling was taking place at the shops, of which about 20 out of 160 were still closed Thursday in Phnom Penh.

In the past, police have denied targeting Internet gaming cafes, while professing a murky understanding of what online games are.

Gaertner said the recent spat of closures has even affected registration for an upcoming tournament the company was planning to host at the Cambodia ICT World Expo. Players, apparently spooked by the closing, have been reluctant to sign up and be seen participating.

“It looks bad,” he said of the tournament’s current situation, though he added that he hopes to have the issue resolved within a month.

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