Municipal police on Sunday arrested 11 Chinese and Filipino members of an alleged local gambling ring operating out of the Royal Palace Hotel and the Chhouk Roth Thmei nightclub, police said.
“We have arrested 11 foreigners and confiscated their gambling materials,” Phnom Penh Police Chief Suon Chenngly said at a news conference Monday morning. “Now we are questioning them, and then we will deport them to their countries.”
Suon Chenngly said officials had previously warned the casino in the Royal Palace Hotel, known as D’Club, to close, but would not elaborate on the circumstances of Sunday’s raid or the details of the gambling ring. He did not say whether the gambling operation at the nightclub had also been warned.
Both casino workers and gamblers were among the detainees. They will not face charges in Cambodia. “We are detaining them at the Foreign Police Office to question them, and after that we will send them back,” Suon Chenngly said.
On Monday afternoon, 10 police motorcycles lined the sidewalk of the Royal Palace Hotel on Monivong Boulevard. Inside the privately rented casino space, four overturned gaming tables lay on a carpet littered with game sheets, casino paperwork, employee identification badges, garbage and thousands of playing cards. Drawers and cabinets with locks were opened and emptied. Half-eaten food sat on a table in a corner.
“We were very frightened last night,” said one hotel employee, who described police charging through the hotel lobby and firing a gun at the lock on the door of the second-floor casino. Police confiscated the telephones and other office equipment at the hotel’s front desk, along with the hand phones, money and motorbikes of some hotel and casino employees, he said.
“We are simple hotel workers who didn’t do anything wrong,” he said.
The hotel’s main phone line had been disconnected Monday afternoon, and the front desk was without a telephone.
When asked by phone about the allegations of confiscation, Suon Chenngly said his office did not have any telephones or motorbikes. “I did not see anything about this issue,” he said. “If I did see [police illegitimately confiscating items], I would stop them. I will try to investigate this case.”
He said the hotel owner was not implicated in the 8:30 pm raid, and that only the renters of the casino space would be held accountable.
Two other hotel employees said many of the casino workers ran out the back door of the casino when the police arrived, but that some were arrested. Employees identified the 10 rooms behind the casino space, now strewn with mattresses, clothing and garbage, as former bedrooms of the casino workers.
At a Monday news conference at municipal police headquarters, the police chief was surrounded by confiscated equipment.
The seized items included nine gaming tables, a roulette table, four electronic gambling machines and thousands of playing cards and gambling chips, spilling out of boxes and potato sacks. No telephones or office equipment were among the visible items. The chief said no money had been confiscated.
Suon Chenngly expressed concern about the presence of gamblers in Phnom Penh and the criminal behaviors that often stem from gambling.
“We will continue to crack down on casinos and gambling,” he said. “It is important, because gambling can cause people to commit robberies and other crimes. I would like to ask the Cambodian people to respect the law and not gamble, because it is against the law.”