A recent government decision to stop issuing new online gambling licenses in Cambodia has many speculating that inflow of both capital and visitors from China will take a hit in the coming months.
Many in the sector have pointed to the gaming industry in Cambodia as one of the main reasons that both investors and tourists from China have been coming to the country in increasing numbers over the past few years.
Indeed, Sihanoukville in the south and Poipet, on the border with Thailand, seem to be the focal points of this growth. Both cities have a well-established casino industry.
Everything was business as usual until the middle of last month. That’s when Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a directive that halted the issuance of new internet gambling permits.
The move, which was trumpeted as a bid to eliminate online extortion associated with online gambling venues, also means that existed licences will not be renewed.
Local sources are reporting that many gaming venues have already shut their doors for good and thousands of Chinese expats have left Sihanoukville.
Insiders in Sihanoukville have said that room rates at hotels and guesthouses in the area have declined since last month.
Nuon Rithy, chairman and CEO of the Khmer Appraisal Foundation, said that Chinese expats leaving Sihanoukville are workers or visiting gamblers, not investors. This, in turn, has caused a drop in the demand for accommodation, food and other services.
Sihanoukville, Bavet, and Poipet are the main centres of Cambodia’s online gambling industry. These three areas are reportedly all witnessing an exodus of Chinese expats.
Despite the fact that gambling is illegal for Cambodian citizens, the Kingdom has become somewhat of a gaming hub in Southeast Asia, due to the fact that foreigners are allowed to lay bets.