‘Slot Machines’ Permitted for Foreigners Only

Though there has been an explosion in electronic betting arcades in recent years, Cambodians are now no longer allowed to use gaming machines, according to a new sub-decree signed Dec 5 by Prime Min­is­ter Hun Sen.

The directive also announced that the machines, colloquially known as slot machines, are only allowed in hotels or licensed casinos, and that machines currently in other establishments must be re­moved within six months.

According to the directive, only officials from the Ministry of Fi­nance are now eligible to license businesses to operate the ma­chines, and provincial and municipal authorities have no jurisdiction to do so.

“Absolutely do not allow Cam­bo­dian citizens to play [slot ma­chines],” the government order states. “If there is any mistakes in allowing Cambodians to play, the Ministry of Interior and the Min­is­try of Economy and Finance must revoke the licenses and stop the business within 24 hours,” it adds.

Chea Pheng Chheang, Finance Ministry secretary of state in charge of casinos, said Wednes­day that the government is working to determine how to enforce the new law, and a meeting with the Minis­try of Interior is scheduled for Monday.

Chea Pheng Chheang said he didn’t have any statistics on how many slot machines are licensed in Cambodia because Wednes­day was a government holiday to ob­serve International Human Rights Day. The government, how­ever, has earned nearly $5 million in tax revenue from slot ma­chines so far this year, a substantial increase on the $3 million earned from gaming machines in 2007, he said. The government has taxed such machines since mid-2005, he added.

Several managers of gaming ar­cades contacted Wednesday said they didn’t know about the directive, and all refused to be quoted by name commenting on its effect on their businesses.

“It could negatively impact our business,” said one manager.

“A mix of Khmers and Chinese come here, but the Khmers sometimes lose up to $10,000, while the Chinese come and don’t spend that much,” he said.

“As a Cambodian, I don’t want more clubs in Cambodia because gambling could make Khmer society more insecure if people lose and are driven to sell their motorbike or commit robbery. But I work here, so I must work to make sure the business is doing well,” he added.

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