Cambodia has a complicated relationship with gambling. The Cambodian people are known to gamble and bet on sports in large numbers, but the official government stance is that all gambling activities are prohibited for citizens. On the other hand, the government does permit land-based casinos to offer their services to tourists.
As a result, there are no actual Cambodian casino sites that operate from within the country. Players who do choose to gamble online must do so with companies that are headquartered in other countries.
We should note that it is widely accepted that Cambodian law prohibits participating in online gambling as a player. There seems to be little effort to actively enforce the law, but we cannot tell you the risk is zero.
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If you do decide to proceed, we would like to recommend you go with reputable offshore providers. Not only are these sites safe from a financial standpoint, but they also do not face the risk of being raided by Cambodian authorities due to being located overseas. Authorities do frequently raid underground online casinos in Cambodia and players’ information can be compromised in such instances.
We are unable to find any news accounts in which players have been targeted for visiting online casinos in Cambodia, but the law does clearly state that participating in gambling is prohibited. Nevertheless, it’s obvious from the frequent police raids of underground Cambodian casino sites that plenty of people are happy to try their luck online. Every news report we have been able to find has always mentioned the organizers of these gambling operations being arrested, not the players.
The best way to stay safe from both a financial and legal standpoint is to play with large, well-known international casinos. Established gaming companies are highly unlikely to suddenly be raided and disappear with your money or to rig the games against you. The sites that we recommend are licensed, experienced and monitored for legitimacy by their home countries’ regulatory authorities.
The one disadvantage to offshore providers is you’ll have a hard time finding any that offer Khmer language versions of their websites. There just aren’t enough Khmer speakers in the world for most operators to go through the trouble of translating everything into Khmer.
Underground online casinos in Cambodia operate almost exclusively in Khmer, but the risks of playing at local sites are too high to make it a worthwhile trade-off. Your best bet would be to use Google translate to get through the signup and deposit process and then play games you’re familiar with after that.
Gambling Laws in Cambodia
A law passed in 1996 formally outlawed all gambling for citizens with the exception of the state-authorized lottery. The government does authorize brick-and-mortar casinos, but under the agreement that they only allow entry to foreign nationals. The entire legal casino industry in Cambodia thus revolves around tourism.
Many smaller casinos therefore operate in the border areas in order to capitalize on tourists coming over from Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Gambling is largely illegal in all three of those countries, so the casinos do a decent amount of business by attracting players from across the border. It has also been often reported that some of these smaller physical casinos are not as strict as they should be when it comes to keeping locals out.
Cambodian online casinos do exist, but all operate outside the law at present. If you follow the news closely, you will frequently come across stories of the police breaking up yet another underground online gambling operated by people from China, Vietnam, South Korea and other countries.
Current laws are unclear regarding the legality of accessing Cambodian online casinos as a player. Local police forces do actively hunt down those who operate gambling websites, but there the law does not make it clear if it is a violation for people to play online. It is generally agreed that there may be some legal risk in doing so, but the degree of risk is unknowable. Authorities could one day begin prosecuting players, or they may continue to turn a blind eye as they look for those involved on the business side of illegal gambling.
It’s obvious there is a pent-up demand for gambling in Cambodia despite the laws, and the government is in the process of updating its laws. There have been past reports that the government was even considering allowing citizens to visit brick-and-mortar casinos, but little progress has been made on that front in recent years.
There is also an ongoing effort since 2014 to amend the laws in an effort to make Cambodia a more attractive market for international gambling investors. Foreign investors have expressed a desire to build brick-and-mortar establishments in Cambodia in order to take advantage of low tax rates, but have also expressed concerns regarding the laws that prohibit locals from participating.
There were also talks at that time of Cambodia situating itself as an online gambling regulator with the idea being to issue licenses to international gambling websites. Even if locals were to remain prohibited from playing online, Cambodia would likely be an attractive destination for online casinos that serve other markets.
Progress has stalled in those efforts, but the laws are progressing in other ways. In October of 2016, the government hosted a cabinet meeting to discuss a draft proposal aiming to update the gambling laws. There is also word that the government is considering formally legalizing online gambling inside brick-and-mortar casinos. This would only benefit foreign nationals (since locals cannot access physical casinos at this point), but it does represent an important first step to addressing the reality of online gambling.
It seems likely that changes will come to Cambodia’s online casino laws sooner or later. Although progress has been slow, the desire to do something has remained alive for over two years now. What those changes will bring remain unknown at this time, but Cambodia appears to be slowly moving in the direction of relaxing at least some of its gambling laws.
Wes Burns co-founded OnlineCasinoSites.com with a mission to help gamblers understand and navigate the regulated online casino market in all countries around the world. Wes is a respected gambling journalist, working in the industry since 2008.