The arrest of nearly 170 Chinese nationals in Sihanoukville, Cambodia for allegedly being part of online crime syndicate has startled hotel and casino workers, customers and even investors away.
Last month, the Cambodian Ministry of Interior’s Immigration Department raided a villa and a guesthouse in Sihanoukville, which led to the arrest of 168 Chinese nationals accused of extorting money from people in China using an internet-based telephone system.
During the arrest, a number of VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephones, mobile phones and other related materials were confiscated and the suspects, who were mostly working in casinos, were detained for questioning and eventually deported. Many of the local casinos featured live-dealer online casino operations that mainly catered to gamblers based in China.
Ly Koung, owner of the newly-opened Victory Hill casino, told The Phnom Penh Post that he had to suspend operations after racking up $20,000 in losses as the casino’s Chinese staff and customers left the province after the raid. Golden Royal Hotel and Casino, which employed 79 of the Chinese nationals arrested, has confirmed a loss of about $100,000 following the crackdown.
The province’s Chinese community, mostly employed to interact with Mainland Chinese gamblers, has grown over the years to between 4000-5000. But according to Rattanak Sombath, owner of Golden Royal, only 400 Chinese remained in Sihanoukville after the arrests, and their departure could have a broad economic fallout on the coastal city’s economy.
Queenco Hotel and Casino also pointed out that the raid will affect the province’s long-term investments and developments that were mostly backed by Chinese investors as it lost a potential $1m contract from a Chinese online gambling company.
“All of Sihanoukville’s economy is built off of around 5,000 Chinese people living here,” said Queenco general manager Aharon Gini. “If the Chinese cut off their contracts, the hotels are left with big projects and no option to get income.”
Hotel and casino operators met with the governor and local authorities on Friday, demanding evidence of the allegations that led to the raids but police chief Brigadier General Choun Narin could not provide any details as they were not consulted about the raid.
A committee will also be formed to monitor all aspects of online gaming and develop more rigid laws concerning online activities, said Gini.