The government of the United States has reportedly warned domestic companies and individuals that they should refrain from investing in certain sections of the Cambodian economy including its burgeoning casino sector.

According to a report from Inside Asian Gaming, the United States Department of State joined with the United States Department of the Treasury and the United States Department of Commerce earlier this week to issue a joint advisory regarding Cambodia. The source detailed that this notification highlighted illicit financial activities such as money laundering and local entities involved in the trafficking of narcotics, people and wildlife as two primary areas of concern for those wishing to do business in the southeast Asian nation.

Watchdog worries:

When it comes to the casino industry in Cambodia and the alert reportedly noted a 263% increase in the number of local gambling licenses that have been issued in the five years to 2019. It purportedly asserted that this steep rise has ‘outpaced’ the capacity of local regulators to effectively police the industry and keep it free from the influence of organized crime elements who often utilize such enterprises to launder dirty cash.

Prime point:

The government caution reportedly moreover disclosed that casinos located in and around the rapidly-growing seaside resort city of Sihanoukville have recently become especially vulnerable to organized crime groups as has Cambodia’s financial, infrastructure and real estate sectors.

Reportedly read a section of the official advisory…

“Recognizing these vulnerabilities related to new casinos and other commercial enterprises in Preah Sihanouk Province, which hosts most of the casinos, the government established an inter-ministerial task force to investigate alleged money laundering and human trafficking. This task force has not issued a report on its findings as of October of 2021.”

Dodgy distinction:

Cambodia is home to almost 15.6 million people and was reportedly placed on a ‘gray list’ by the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force organization in 2019 for exhibiting ‘limited regulations and oversight’ of activities at risk of money laundering. This inventory moreover included the likes of South Sudan, Zimbabwe, Nicaragua and the Philippines and purportedly furthermore noted that corruption in some of these nations is often ‘endemic and widespread’.

Secondary scrutiny:

Inside Asian Gaming reported that the warning additionally advised American companies to consider the threat of human trafficking and child exploitation should they decide to invest in the Cambodian tourism industry. It purportedly pronounced that the local government, especially in Preah Sihanouk Province, ‘lacks the capacity to deal with child labor and is overwhelmed by the scale of the issue’ and that this has led to ‘an increase in the number of child laborers at construction sites and entertainment venues including casinos, hotels and karaoke bars’.

A second section of the official advisory reportedly read…

“Rampant development in Sihanoukville, the site of dozens of new casinos built in the last five years, raises concerns of child exploitation and trafficking. Cambodia’s 2020 ban on online gambling and the subsequent shuttering of many casinos and other entertainment establishments have reduced such trafficking, though the problem persists and will likely grow as the Cambodian economy recovers from coronavirus.”