Prime Minister Hun Manet has asked for understanding from any investors who have invested or intend to invest in the Cambodian gambling sector.

He explained that his government does not want any such investment, as the industry brings no benefits, only consequences.

Manet made the remarks during a meeting with members of the Cambodian diaspora living in Australia and New Zealand, in Melbourne, Australia on March 3.

“I have ordered the suspension of the issuance of gambling licenses, and am taking measures to reduce or cancel existing licenses, as they offer no benefit to society. Our goal is to build factories and create jobs to generate income for the people, not expand gambling. Even legal gambling must come to an end,” he said.

Manet asked Aun Pornmoniroth, Minister of Economy and Finance, to examine the feasibility of a policy which would see the cancellation of existing gambling licenses, with the company’s capital invested in a productive industry, like a factory.

“As I said, we need to open factories and create jobs and businesses that put money in people’s pockets. I don’t want lotteries which offer nothing to society, so we must make it difficult for them to do business, and unprofitable. They are contrary to the policy of the Royal Government,” said the prime minister.

Chey Tech, an economist and social researcher, supported the Prime Minister’s proposal to ban gambling in Cambodia, although believed that licensed casinos should be allowed to continue to operate.

“Closing the lotteries and prohibiting people from playing in casinos is a good thing, although if a casino is properly licensed, the government should allow it to continue to contribute to the promotion of tourism and the economy. Of course, it must be done in accordance with Cambodian law,” he said.

He suggested that despite bans on gambling in some casinos and lotteries in the past, people still secretly take part in both. Therefore, the law should be strictly enforced, because illegal gambling leads to theft, family conflicts and other problems in Cambodian society.

Touch Sokhak, deputy spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, said on March 4 that from January 1 to March 3, the ministry had investigated illegal gambling at 300 locations in the capital and 18 provinces, detaining a total of 496 people.

He said that 69 out of the 300 had resulted in legal action, with 194 suspects being sent to court.

“Of the 69 cases, one was an illegal online gambling operation, and resulted in six arrests. Internet gambling under the banner of a legitimate license was uncovered in seven locations, with 31 suspects arrested. The remaining 61 cases covered a variety of illegal games of chance, with 157 suspects awaiting trial,” he added.

Sokhak explained that administrative measures were taken in the remaining 231 locations, with 339 individuals forced to sign contracts and cease their activities.

The current crackdown on illegal gambling is one of the ministry’s six priority goals, which were set by Minister of Interior Sar Sokha at the beginning of the seventh-mandate government.