Rumours of the collapse of the online gambling industry in Cambodia may have proven somewhat unfounded, at least if certain media reports are to be believed.
The South China Morning Post reported last Thursday on Sihanoukville’s continuing challenges, where the once-thriving casino industry became a shadow of its former self following the January 1 ban on on online gambling operations.
But while Cambodian authorities were keen to play up their vigilance to ensure that local casino operators shut down their once-profitable online operations, the SCMP reported that some casinos–including the WM Casino and Sihanoukville’s GoBo East Casino–are still operating their online business, and apparently are not too keen to discuss it with reporters.
A WM Casino floor manager reported that the women who hold the live dealer tables and smile happily at the webcams focused on them, served only gamblers in other parts of the casino through a closed-circuit network.
Meanwhile, a YouTube video posted on January 29 called “WM Hotel & Casino” focuses almost exclusively on the female webcam croupiers and the various digital platforms through which one can access online gambling services.
The SCMP report noted that one of the directors of WM’s parent company Lixin Group is Hun To, the nephew of Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, the man who released the online gambling order back in August, while the country’s Deputy PM Men Sam An attended the 2018 grand opening of the venue GoBo East.
How the authorities would respond to highly public news is uncertain, as some large casinos continue to defy the online ban. The findings will almost certainly outrage many of the casinos that shut down their entire operations because without online gambling, they were no longer profitable.
The online ban on Cambodia was widely perceived as a courtesy to China, whose people made up the bulk of online gambling clients. In response, China made non-specific promises of financial support to help major hubs such as Sihanoukville transition to an alternative economic model, while Cambodia promised to raise infrastructure spending to reshape Sihanoukville as a special economic zone in the Shenzhen-style.