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Cambodia is something of a hotbed for gambling in Southeast Asia, in an area where gambling tends not to be permitted, where a lot of people from these countries come over the border to gamble here, where it is available in abundance.
In particular, there are lot of Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese gamblers who travel to Cambodia to play at their casinos, and many of these casinos are set up along the borders to make them as accessible as possible to these visitors who come over to spend their money. (1)
There are said to be 3,000 Vietnamese people alone that come over every day into Cambodia to play at the casinos, because it is illegal for them to play at their own countries’ casinos. Unlike Vietnam and Thailand, China isn’t just right over the border, but their casinos still get visited by quite a few Chinese as well.
There are a total of 27 casinos in Cambodia, which is certainly quite a few for a country this size, and casino gambling is therefore pretty big in this country. (2) It’s the casino games, and not so much poker, that the people go for here the most, at these casinos.
There was no gambling available at all during the era of the Khmer Rouge, perhaps the most oppressive government in world history, who even banned money let alone gambling, but since the 1990’s, gambling has made a comeback and a pretty big comeback at that.
In 1996 a law was passed that made it illegal for Cambodians to gamble at Cambodian casinos, but this law is said to be weakly enforced and local players are said to be able to gamble with little interference from law enforcement, unlike in some other Asian countries which has a no local policy and does strictly enforce it.
This definitely benefits the casinos, as Cambodians have a long history of a love of gambling, and this certainly adds to the popularity of gambling in Cambodia, where the people are supposed to be prohibited but still widely partake in the proceedings.
Cambodians Do Love To Gamble
Gambling here is well spread out across the country with establishments in no less than 13 different cities in Cambodia. Cambodians don’t just gamble in the casinos though, they also are fond of sports betting, and in particular, cock fighting. The police aren’t as tolerant of these gambling activities though and are known to crack down on them and arrest people. (3)
Other than at the casinos, gambling is illegal in Cambodia, and it’s not legal for Cambodians to bet on anything actually. Cambodians like to bet, so this means the potential for a thriving underground gambling market, and they do have that here.
In some areas, even betting on the rain has become a popular pastime, and there are even some players who bet on the rain professionally, making their living off of it. In some areas, up to 80% of the people place bets on the rain, to give you an idea of how big this is here. (4)
Underground gambling has grown at a very rapid pace here, and they even have erected illegal casinos close to the border to compete with the legal ones in the area. There is said to be a heavy involvement from organized crime, and it’s quite an organized affair to be sure.
There is also said to be a fair bit of corruption involved and Cambodian police have been known to take bribes to look the other way toward this illegal gambling. (5) There is certainly still a will to curtail this, but it nevertheless goes on and is getting bigger and bigger.
Poker in Cambodia
Among the casinos here, there are 6 of them which offer poker, but there is only a total of 12 poker tables among them. So poker isn’t exactly big here to say the least, and the main reason is that this is not a game that has caught on much either in Cambodia nor in the countries where they draw the casino tourists from, but for those who wish to play some live poker, there at least are some places which offer it. (6)
The Asian Poker Tour has a stop in Cambodia though, which only makes sense given that they actually do have poker rooms here, and a lot of Asian countries don’t, but this does speak to the fact that poker isn’t a dead game here in Cambodia and does have a following for sure. (7)
There isn’t said to be a lot of underground poker that goes on here, as players are interested in other forms of gambling as far as live gambling goes, but there’s still the possibility of online poker, and these underground gambling establishments may not be the safest places to play poker anyway.
Playing online of course is much safer, but if you are looking to do that, it pays to be somewhat careful at least, as Cambodia is one of the few places in the world where people have been arrested for gambling online.
Cambodians do a fair bit of betting online actually although it’s mostly sports betting that they partake in. Cambodia is not one of the growing list of countries where online poker sites have pulled out of for various reasons, and while they often claim that it is because these countries are grey markets, the size of the market does factor into things as well.
So there are enough online poker players in Cambodia to not have this happen, as of yet anyway, even though it’s clear that playing poker online is against the law here.
So it’s definitely safer to play online than at an underground establishment, but there still does appear to be some risk here of getting caught, so players are well advised to take precautions to prevent this, such as connecting to the poker sites through a virtual private network located outside the country, and to also use foreign based internet wallets to move money in and out of poker sites, as this would all be prudent.
Cambodians have always enjoyed playing card games, and in recent years more and more Cambodians are moving away from traditional card games such as Khar Te and Kraharm, and moving to games like Texas Holdem. So with the easy access of online poker, they now have a way to play the game whenever they want, and the ranks of poker players here are growing.
Poker is in its relative infancy in Cambodia though, and while the government is a long way away from ever regulating online poker here, they first have to allow their people to gamble at all, a fair number of Cambodians have now taken to the internet to play poker, and we may see more and more, so in the coming years as the game continues to grow here.