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How the Recent Ban on Gambling is killing the Economy of Cambodia

Published on January 20, 2020, 9:02 pm

by Jeff Grant Twitter account Jeff Grant LinkedIn account

The online gaming industry in Cambodia is a huge economic driver in areas such as Sihanoukville city. Most of the Chinese workers trooped into the country to gamble since the practice is still illegal in China and other neighboring countries.

However, online gaming kept raising hackles in Beijing, which forced Cambodia to ban this practice. The business had flourished due to the influx of Chinese who owned restaurants, parlors, and casinos.

On the other hand, this business had contributed to an increase in kidnapping, murder, and extortion. The closure of gambling businesses had a significant impact on the economy of Cambodia. The article will highlight the effects of gambling on the economy.

JinBei Casino & Hotel (Sihanoukville, Cambodia)
JinBei Casino & Hotel (Sihanoukville, Cambodia)

Consequences of Gambling in Cambodia

  • Online gambling is used by foreign criminals to engage in online fraud. The Cambodian customs officials at the Sihanoukville airport had reported several cases of undeclared cash from Chinese nationals.
  • The free flow of dollars triggered prostitution, drug trafficking, torture, abduction, and murder due to the influx of Chinese gamblers and workers. The national security was also at risk due to mafia and launderers.
  • Gambling led to the entry of Chinese nationals particularly in Sihanoukville city. The increase in residents led to congestion, and turned Sihanoukville to a casino city instead of a beautiful beach resort.
  • Foreigners contributed to the rise in the cost housing. For that reason, locals had to seek alternate homes since rent had gone up to $300 per month, thus pushing the poorest out of the city.
  • Gambling contributed to increased anti-Chinese sentiment due to the rise in the number of casinos and businesses owned by Chinese. High-rise building replaced seaside bungalows, family-run Khmer restaurants, and low-cost resorts.
  • Investors had begun constructing unsafe buildings. A building in Sihanoukville collapsed and killed 28 Cambodians, while 48 others were awaiting demolition. Some buildings didn't adhere to the recommended distance from the beach or dumping of waste construction debris.

Effects of the Ban of Gambling on the Economy of Cambodia

Cambodia is suitable for adventure seekers and travelers owing to its unique experiences, such as Khmer Rouge and Angkor Wat. For some years, it has been an entertainment destination for gamblers in the region.

  1. Increased Foreign Investments

Cambodia was a tiny country that had been ravaged by civil war for two decades. Therefore, casinos were bringing huge investments into the country, hence boosting entertainment and tourism. The gambling market in Cambodia is diverse and includes beachside gaming hub, world-class integrated resort NagaWorld, as well as several other casinos along the borders. Indeed, gambling has boosted a liberal economy since the nation was welcoming ideas and investments from casino operators. Most casinos gave gamblers up to 100% deposit bonus to attract new ones and retain the existing ones.

  1. A decline in the Tourism Sector

Gambling had increased the number of tourists visiting Cambodia. International arrivals at Phnom Penh Airport had grown to 21% in 2017. Most of these visitors came from China, Vietnam, and Laos. Therefore, the ban on gambling in Cambodia is likely to affect its tourism sector.

  1. Loss of Employment

The ban on gambling in Cambodia led to the closure of dozens of casinos. This contributed to the loss of over 7700 jobs. These workers were initially working in factories, but they shifted to casinos, which gave them a better salary.

  1. Termination of Foreign-Funded Construction Frenzy

Cambodia had relocated casinos to border crossings to attract gamblers from Vietnam, Thailand, and China. The decision contributed to the growth of other cities away from the capital. For instance, there are two vibrant gaming hubs, several hotels and restaurants dominating the skyline. Chinese investors own these buildings; however, they coincided with the increase in crime. Therefore, the ban contributed to the deportation of most of Chinese nationals.

  1. Loss of Tax

The government was generating revenue from casino licenses and other related businesses. The government had issued more than 105 casino licenses, and 48 operational casinos were operating in Sihanoukville and others along Vietnam and Thailand borders. Cambodia prohibits its locals from engaging in gambling activities; however, they could enjoy benefits from taxes generated from casinos and investments from foreign gamblers. For instance, casino owners collectively remitted $50 million from $4 billion annual revenue. These rates helped the country to position itself as a regional casino and gaming hub.

A great documentary which explains the effects of gambling on the society and the economy of Cambodia


The growth of gambling in Cambodia was a two-sided spear. It contributed significantly to the growth of the economy. The practice attracted several investors and gamblers from the neighboring countries that have banned the activity.

The other side of the coin is that gambling, led to crime. The rate of prostitution, extortion, abduction, and kidnapping had gone up. Investors were also constructing houses that were not safety-conscious. Thus, Cambodia had no choice but to ban the practice.


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