September 18, 2021

The Development of Gambling in Cambodia

Cambodia has a love-hate relationship with gambling. It has been around for centuries. Yet, around 1996; gambling was declared illegal because of the disguised criminal activities and growth of the black market. Then the government decided to keep an open end for the tourists only.

From improving the air route to Cambodia to licensing an increasing number of casinos including Gclub Casino. Within a decade, a lot of development took place in the Cambodian gambling business. The revenue collection from gambling is increasing at a constant rate. With more casinos setting up, there has been a boost in the tourism and employment rate. Though, we cannot say the same for the last two years as COVID-19 hit across industries.

How gambling originated in Cambodia

In the past, people wagered on animal fights and weather forecasts. Later For a long time, gambling has been prevalent in this South Asian nation. Its presence dates back to the 6th century BCE, when Buddhism was a newly emerging religion. The history of gambling in the Kingdom of Cambodia was always volatile. It was completely prohibited by the Khmer Rouge government and was referred to as a “social evil” until the 1990s when it was temporarily reinstated. But on religious grounds, gambling was not considered a sin when done for recreation.

The casino culture began roughly in Sihanoukville when the Chinese began to transform the laid-back city into a modern casino hub. However, the first casino in Cambodia was built by a Malaysian billionaire, which also happens to be the first casino to be licensed in 1994.

Since then, many casinos have emerged on the seaside borders. Currently, NagaWorld, located in Phnom Penh and Star Vegas of Poipet, near the Thai border, has a monopoly over the area and the two largest casinos in Cambodia. NagaWorld has over 600 gaming tables and more than 5,000 gaming machines. It also brings the highest amount of revenue

Types of gambling sites on the market

The online gambling market is vivid and super entertaining. Players are always spoiled with options as the leading game developers keep releasing innovative games to beat the competition. The confidentiality, flexibility, and accessibility internet gambling gives its customers have made it the most popular form of gambling.

There are distinctively three types of gambling games available online. They come in varieties like dealer styles, graphics, and so forth. There are three of them: casino, sports betting, and poker.


Slots, blackjack, and roulette are all available at most online casinos, so are several other games. On most casino sites, you may play with a live dealer. There are several promos and benefits for new players.

Sports Betting

The objective of sports betting is to predict which team or individual will win a particular sports match. Participants can wager on the outcomes of sporting events, such as soccer matches, basketball games, and hockey, and plenty of others.


One of the basic poker variations is Five Card Draw. Also, Seven Card Stud, Texas Hold’em, Omaha Hold’em, Criss Cross, Draw Poker, and Stud Poker are among the other available games.

Is gambling something you can do while in Cambodia?

You can take part in as much of the dames you want to wager on along with the luxurious amenities and amazing hospitality. According to Cambodian law, any tourist visiting the country and valid passport proof can enter any of their licensed on-site casinos. There is a ban only on local participation.

But if you are looking to try out the local online casinos, you may have a stroke of hard luck as most of the sites are blocked and, it is not even 100% safe to play in those.

How Gambling Is Treated In Cambodia

Cambodia has long suffered from poverty, food shortage, immigration issues, corruption, and rampant criminal activities. Gambling may be for enjoyment, but it also fuels the ills of society, which continue to impede the nation’s growth. That is one crucial reason why the government has stringent rules for gambling.

The 1996 Gambling Suppression Law prohibited all unlawful forms of gambling. The punishments vary from monetary fines to brief jail terms. Though, gambling does not fall under the 28 offenses punishable by incarceration by Cambodia’s General Department of Prisons. All Cambodian citizens only have to adhere to the law.

Yet, it wasn’t enough to keep the Cambodians under chains. Gambling is not only widespread but, it has been in the culture for decades.

Is Gambling a Sin?

More than 80 percent of the population of Cambodia is into Buddhism (Hinayana group). In 1975, the Cambodian government declared Buddhism as the official state religion.

Buddhism extensively covers the topic of gambling. It was never completely against gambling since it was already a norm when Buddhism was found. People at those simpler times were also not obsessed with the game. They played for pleasure.

According to Buddhist preaching, there are three motives for indulging in gambling- Recreation, Habitual, and Addiction. Under the Buddhist worldview, gambling for pleasure or recreation is acceptable. Also, gambling habitually isn’t regarded as a sin by definition, according to the scriptures. All other major religions do condemn gambling addiction and consider it to be a sin.

Though in Christianity, the largest religious sect of the world, didn’t specifically mention gambling. It only mentions that it is more essential to love God and people than to chase money. It suggests that gambling should not be prioritized in the same way that addicts do.

What do local Cambodians think of gambling?

Gambling is popular among the locals. Southeast Asian culture, including Cambodia in general, is infused with gambling as a favorite leisure activity. In early times, rather than dice and card games, there used to be very thrilling cockfights and sometimes fish fights.

Gambling evolved with generations but, one is for sure. It is something that the children grow up watching other family members play. In their culture, men who don’t gamble are seen as less manly. The fact gambling is a forbidden act, yet one is showing enough courage to do it, feeds the ego.

It tells us how gambling governs the life of the people there. Despite the social stigma, this age-old tradition is inseparable from the culture.

Is it okay for a foreigner to gamble in Cambodia?

The Cambodian economy is heavily dependent on the tourism industry. They will have to allow casinos to run to satisfy the foreign guests. Hence, foreigners can freely indulge in gambling in the land-based casinos in Cambodia. There are about 93 casinos authorized in Cambodia and operating freely on the borders. After the COVID-19 situation, only 10 of them have reopened.

Nevertheless, the government seems to be not concerned with the impact on the locals. If the casinos are established nearby, people are bound to find a way around to give a visit.

All one needs is a foreign passport to visit a casino. Some of the casinos allow many urban Cambodians with dual citizenship to bet legally. Local people often bribe the police. This way, people who can’t provide a foreign ID can obtain acceptance into an authorized casino.

Currently, more funds are allocated to the construction of new casinos. As part of the initiative, commercial gaming facilities in Cambodia will better manage gambling activities to stimulate economic growth, promote tourism, increase tax income and preserve social safety and security, among other objectives.

About the author 

Peter Hatch

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}