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Cambodia Rapidly Shapeshifts into China’s Gambling Playground amid Investment

Cambodia is one of the developing fields when it comes to gambling which is visible to anyone interested in the region, but it could be contributed for the most part to the Chinese influence on the region in the past months. The locals are now questioning whether the enormous foreign investment which is heavily introduced to Sihanoukville and Cambodia in general, has nationals’ best interest at heart.

Only a while ago the region of Sihanoukville enjoyed the reputation of a tranquil seaside town providing many Cambodians with a pleasant time. The city, also known as Kampong Som is located on the coast and due to its favorable placement, it has always been able to attract the attention of tourists and investors from near and far. This has been one of the main incentives for foreign developers and operators to eye the city and pick it for the construction of the integrated resort Holiday Palace. Being the largest casino resort in the country comes with the larger popularity among tourists that have the potential to shape the area and inevitably have their impact on it.

Holiday Palace has a total of 200 slot machines available on offer as well as 10 table games able to accommodate all players willing to gamble. As a result, the coastal region has been transformed into a go-to gambling location with many Chinese players making their way to it. Neighboring countries to the liking of Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand also benefit from the offerings provided. According to the estimations of experts at the US’ Centre for Advanced Defence Studies, China might be strategically making its way into the region in order to gain easier access to the Thai gulf.

This would significantly help work on the Belt and Road Initiative striving to further connect countries in the region. In the meantime, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen is willing to work with China as this would ensure the support and his remaining in power. According to the figures for 2017, this change resulted in China becoming the main source of tourists traveling to Cambodia, to reach 1.2 million and a 40-percent jump in comparison to 2016. VIP gambling enthusiasts from China see the location as an alternative to Macau and with the help of the eased visa rules, now they have more freedom to travel to Cambodia.

What should also be taken into account is that there is still no strict set of rules regulating the sector and providing it with the needed framework and player protection, conveniently utilized by Chinese investors in their favor. They are not obliged to pay taxes on their gaming revenue generated, while money-laundering remains vaguely prohibited. Looking at the bigger picture, there would soon be about 80 casino venues in operation in the region.

Casino Development Already Has Its Impact on Country

They are all established in a rapid fashion, as foreign developers are willing to capitalize on the surging popularity of Cambodia. Casino facilities in the country are venues prohibiting Cambodians from participating in gambling activities, as they are open to foreigners only. The restrictions go so far as the employees usually being Chinese nationals, further solidifying the notion that these venues are not meant for the locals.

China has managed to invest about US$1.7 billion in the construction of casino resorts and venues across Cambodia in the past twelve months only which was defined as profitable for all parties involved by the country’s Prime Minister Hun Sen. However, the community is already experiencing the negative impact of Chinese nationals in their everyday life in all its areas. Ranging from locals losing their business over Chinese tenants, to surging levels of crime, with the most recent shooting of five Chinese tourists over cash lost on gambling, the situation might soon get out of hand.

China’s ambassador Xiong Bo recently made it clear that Chinese tourists utilizing Sihanoukville’s gambling potential would have to improve their behavior and put an end to the criminal activities by abiding the local regulations. On the other hand, the situation is not that negative, as there are businesses making the best out of it and capitalizing on Chinese nationals purchasing properties in the region and relocating. There has also been a surge in the employment rates for Cambodians hired at Chinese building projects as construction workers and potentially on permanent positions in the future.

Sights were set on the area, while the attractive region of Siem Reap remained off-limits for casino operation. Officials of the Ministry of Economy and Finance made it clear that international investors are welcome to explore the field, but casino development in the area shall remain strictly prohibited. The foreseeable future is projected to bring even more Chinese investment to Cambodia, slowly leaving footprints all over the region. Whether that has ultimately positive or negative impact on the country, remains to be seen.

 Author: Harrison Young

Harrison Young is an experienced writer, who started his career almost 8 years ago. Prior to joining our team at CasinoGamesPro, he worked as an editor for a small magazine.