The casino industry in Cambodia has grown rapidly during the last eighteen months and one of the main reasons for that growth is due to the influx of gamblers from Mainland China. The Cambodian government and Cambodian casinos have benefitted from gamblers in Mainland China, it appears that casinos in Sihanoukville have relied far too heavily on Mainland China gamblers.
Chinese authorities recently conducted a raid in Sihanoukville as they suspected a number of Mainland Chinese nationals who were working in Sihanoukville casinos to involved in an elaborate transnational extortion ring. Chinese authorities collaborating with the Cambodian immigration authorities decided to raid a guesthouse and villa in Sihanoukville on the 31st of October as they suspected key members of the telecom extortion ring to be operating from these locations.
The policed arrested 168 Chinese citizens and will take them back to China to be prosecuted. The authorities allege that these individuals operated an internet operation that targeted wealthy individuals in Mainland China and trapped them into a blackmailing scheme that brought in significant amounts of revenue. The authorities also targeted a similar operation in Indonesia and stated that over 4,000 telecom extortion cases were carried out till date.
This sting operation has scared hundreds of Chinese nationals who were working in Sihanoukville casinos and also tourists who were regular players at the casino. These Chinese nationals have abandoned their jobs at Sihanoukville’s casinos and players have also decided to move away from this coastal town which has now become a target for the Chinese authorities.
A number of casino operators and hotel establishments remain suspicious of the crackdown and met with local authorities and the provincial governor to gain more clarity into the investigation as the mass exodus has severely impacted their revenues. Sihanoukville was home to as many as 5000 Chinese nationals who provided both labor and revenue to the casino and hotel industry and after the crackdown less than 500 remain.
The Majestic Hotel and casino located on Victory Hill was one of the establishments who has suffered due to the Chinese crackdown. The hotel was forced to shutdown operations after it suffered losses of more than $20,000.
In a statement, Ly Koung, owner of the Majestic Hotels said “We have no more customers, and our workers have quit. Arresting Chinese nationals who work in casinos without any clear evidence made our Chinese staff fearful and many resigned, which forced us to close the casino. If those arrested are found guilty, we support this police action, but if they are in fact innocent then these arrests have [irresponsibly] incited fear.”
Police chief Brigadier General Choun Narin of Sihanoukville stated that his department could not shed more light over the operation as it was carried out by the immigration department and the Interior ministry.