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The History of Gambling in Cambodia

Cambodia casino

Gambling has been around since people began to settle in groups. Ancient China provides the first definite evidence. Keno slips, a form of lottery currency, were used in China to pay governmental construction around 200 BC.

Since then, the gambling forms have evolved tremendously as the entertainment business has exploded.

Today gambling is a 500+ billion dollar industry globally, including both the offline and online market. Asia is a major contributor to these extravagant numbers.

China has a strong cultural influence on Cambodia. Yet Cambodia hasn't achieved much progress in this sector like its neighbors. Bogged down by several economical and social issues, the Cambodian law enforcement body had to ban gambling sometime around 1996.

Despite this, locals continue to play casino games, as it has been a part of their culture for a long time.

The beginning

Today's gambling consists of different card games and slot machines that involve both luck and wits to maximize winnings. The online gambling scenario is way more vibrant with all the high-end graphics and more challenges.

But it was not always like that before. People used to bet on animal fights and rain prediction too. Cambodia has a long history of gambling. It is at least as old as the 6th century BCE when Buddhism was established.

The casino culture approximately started from Sihanoukville when the Chinese began to construct them.

The legal matters

Gambling activities made way for a lot of corruption which ultimately trickled down to the poor socio-economic condition of the country. The Cambodian youth is the most exposed population in the country. Because of these issues, the Cambodian government had to take strict steps against the nation's most loved time pass.

As a result of the Gambling Law of 1996, gambling is illegal in Cambodia. It outlawed all kinds of gambling in the country and stated numerous punishments including, jail sentences and monetary fines for whoever violates it. But gambling is not included as one of the 28 felonies punishable by imprisonment by Cambodia's General Department of Prisons (DGP). Also, all the rules applied only to the citizens. The foreigners who are visiting Cambodia and can show proof by visa can freely gamble in any land-based or online casino such as Gclub.

In the past, Cambodians were also permitted to participate in slot machines in casinos around the country. But they were shut down in 2009 because of complaints about compulsive gaming and mounting debts.

The future of gambling in Cambodia

The current propaganda of the Cambodian government is to promote more land-based casinos and develop a proper framework to regulate the online casinos. It is a known fact that casinos bring in much-needed funds in the country. It does so by increasing tourism and entertainment in the small, laid-back country that not too long ago suffered a civil war.

Sihanoukville is slowly emerging as Cambodia's gaming capital. NagaWorld in Phnom Penh is the largest casino in Cambodia. 

There are also a plethora of casinos along Cambodia's borders with Vietnam and Thailand. Poipet and Pailin are the other two on the Thai border, whereas Bavet and Kampot, close to the Vietnamese border, also have a line of casinos. Most of these are financed by Chinese investors.101 casino operators in the Kingdom have applied to renew their licenses year-to-date out of a total of 193 registered by the end of 2020.

To expand its gaming sector and attract international investment, Cambodia adopted different gaming laws in the second half of 2018. Casino profits were taxed at 4 to 5 percent under the new laws. It was a successful initiative.

Various marketing techniques like price drops in accommodation, travel discounts, free meals are used to attract the wealthy VIP tourist. All these efforts vouch for a bright future of gambling in Cambodia once more casinos reopen after the pandemic.

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