Accessing, registering, and depositing money with online gambling companies in Cambodia has become remarkably straightforward.  Users are guided through an easy-to-navigate registration process that involves providing basic personal details, followed by a quick account activation.  Depositing money is equally user-friendly, with several options available, including local bank transfers, international payment gateways and e-wallets.  Essential information like deposit amount and payment method is all that's needed, and live chat support is often available to assist with any queries 24/7.  These streamlined systems allow users to begin gambling with minimal hassle. A 36-year-old man, who gave only the name Bros in order to remain anonymous, is a fervent football fan.  He has been avidly betting on matches throughout the 2024 Euros. Bros has placed numerous bets through an online betting company. He says he has faith in their reliability as they've consistently paid out his winnings.  "They've always paid me back when I won, which built my trust in them," he explains. However, Bros has some lingering doubts, particularly when it comes to placing larger bets.  “I'm not entirely sure if they'll pay up if I win a significant amount,” he confesses, reflecting a common concern among many punters, especially as using such services is illegal in Cambodia.

‘No licenses granted’

Meas Sok Sensan, spokesman for the Ministry of Economy and Finance, confirmed that the Commercial Gambling Management Commission of Cambodia (CGMC) has not issued any online gambling licenses.  “Therefore, all online betting agencies are illegal, and should be cracked down on, in accordance with the law,” he told The Post. Despite gambling being illegal for Cambodians, many online betting sites appear to be operating freely, without interference from the authorities. According to Nostrabet, the top five betting sites in Cambodia are Betsson, 1xBet, 22Bet, Betway and 888Sport. 

Another two of the portals which were identified and banned by the CGMC for offering illegal betting services. CGMC

These platforms offer diverse betting options, including sports, live betting and casino games. A lack of strict enforcement of gambling laws means these sites are thriving as they cater to the gambling preferences of the Kingdom’s punters, seemingly without fear of legal repercussions. Officials beg to differ, however. “Our officials are monitoring these activities, in order to take action in accordance with the law," Ros Phirun, General Secretariat of the CGMC, told the Post. 

Gambling commission taking action

According to a CGMC social media post, the unit identified 25 online pages advertising online casinos and gambling services on Facebook, Telegram and websites, in violation of the Law which established the CGMC and the Law on the Suppression of Gambling. These promotions have had a serious impact on public order, morality and people’s livelihoods, according to the CGMC. In response, it added, the authorities have been monitoring, researching, and cracking down on gambling advertisers, operators, players and others who are involved in illegal gambling. “Please stay informed and avoid participating in any of these illegal gambling activities,” said the post. The Law on the Management of Integrated Resorts and Commercial Gambling (LMCG) was introduced in October 2020 with the goal of boosting the economy, creating jobs and enhancing tourism, while also addressing money laundering and corruption issues. The law, with 12 chapters and 97 articles, established the Cambodia Commercial Games Committee (CCGC), which is tasked with overseeing the sector, issuing licenses and enforcing regulations.  It mandates strict accounting practices and prohibits Cambodians, including public officials, from gambling in casinos. Despite the law's potential, experts emphasise the need for robust enforcement to combat corruption and ensure effective regulation.

Bet at your own risk 

Cambodian Senate president Hun Sen took to social media on June 28 to predict that Germany would make the final 16 of the 2024 European Championship. “Now the eight games of the final 16 are over, and Germany are still there. I did not say that Germany would win the championship, so do not blame me if German fans bet and lose,” he said. “It's football – no one can foresee the result. Please choose wisely and do not bet. Be careful that you do not end up eating soybeans,” he added, referencing a Khmer expression related to the cheapest type of food.

Ongoing enforcement

Sok Sensan reiterated that the CGMC has implemented measures aimed at strengthening online scams of all kinds and in all forms within casinos, as well as to control the promotion of illegal online gambling.  “The commission has identified Facebook groups, text messages and Telegram channels that advertised online games and sent links to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. The links have been blocked or shut down,” he told The Post.

Another two of the portals which were identified and banned by the CGMC for offering illegal betting services. CGMC

Additional measures and outreach efforts include discussions on the management of gambling and its impacts with public authorities in nine provinces and 14 districts of Phnom Penh.  "The CGMC works closely with other law enforcement branches, especially the National police, to investigate online gambling operations. They track their locations and take measures to supress them,” added Sok Sensan.

Effects on the Kingdom’s image

Chinese investment is alleged to have played a significant role in the development of Cambodia's gambling sector.  In 2021, Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) in Cambodia reached $2 billion, accounting for 69 per cent of total FDI capital in the country, according to regional gambling industry insiders AGB Asia. This influx of investment had a significant impact on local economies, particularly in the southern town of Sihanoukville, which has seen a boom in Chinese-owned casinos and online gambling operations​. Gambling-related crimes in Cambodia have also become a significant issue, with numerous cases involving illegal gambling activities, human trafficking and cyber scams.  In recent years, Cambodian authorities have conducted several raids and arrests which targeted these criminal activities.  In 2023, the Cambodian government made over 450 arrests related to illegal online gambling scams and associated crimes in Sihanoukville, often referred to as "sin city" due to its high concentration of such activities​​. Last April, 130 Chinese suspects were extradited from Cambodia as part of a broader crackdown on transnational gambling and fraud​​. Despite these efforts, there are still significant concerns about the effectiveness of enforcement and the prevalence of such crimes in the Kingdom. Sun Chanthol, first vice-president of the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), expressed surprise when Japanese investors openly raised concerns about the growth of online gambling in Cambodia.  They expressed their concerns as Chanthol inspected a Japanese-owned manufacturing facility in the Special Economic Zone in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet, last February.

Threats to public order

In addition to concerns about international gambling and fraud-related activities, the Kingdom also faces social issues which arise from gambling, particularly during the Euros. Touch Sokhak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said national authorities and local officials under the ministry are continuously monitoring the situation, and conducting investigations that aim to prevent any potential offences in a timely manner. “This is one of the regular duties of the police officers under the ministry. In addition, during all major events, the National Police and local authorities increase security by preventing and cracking down on crime,” he added. Regarding the Euro season, he confirmed that the authorities have plans in place to suppress any related issues.