In Cambodia, over 150 casinos happen to be operational now, compared to 98, back in 2017. Sihanoukville, a coastal province, hosts over 88 casinos. Cambodians are banned by law from entering gambling casinos. PIME missionaries report that it’s difficult to conduct a detailed assessment of this trend’s consequences due to the rapid pace of this change.
The Cambodian government granted over 52 licenses to casinos during 2018, which has increased their number by 53% compared to the year before, as per a report from the Finance & Economy Ministry.
Ros Phirun, deputy DG at the ministry’s GDFI department stated that Sihanoukville alone houses over 88 casinos. His department regulates the gambling industry in Cambodia.
This move has transformed Sihanoukville and its capital into an Asian gambling Mecca. Both areas have seen a boom in constructions over the recent years, due to increasing Chinese investments made in real estate, casinos, and hotels.
However, instability and crime rates have been growing steadily, especially in Cambodia’s South-Western region due to Chinese investments and presence in the area. Provincial Governor Min reported this in his letter addressed to the Cambodian central government.
Since many gambling casinos are now present in the region, experts and groups have aired concerns about its effects on the local population. While Cambodian citizens aren’t allowed to enter these casinos, activist groups like ANSA have issued warnings that many people are now knee-deep in poverty due to their gambling habits.
Fr. Tavola, PIME’s superior delegate in Cambodia, stated that the Church was worried about these casinos and their impact on society.
The clergyman stated that no one believed a casino could promote social balance, well-being, and prosperity. He opined that the rapid pace of this trend over the last 2-3 years had made it difficult to accurately assess this trend and its consequences.
He mentioned that Sihanoukville was turning into a massive construction site. Chinese companies and nationals were invading the entire city, scooping up businesses and land. This has caused several foreign and local businesses to move east, cease or sell their ventures. Western tourists are now preferring the latter, which has boosted local resorts.