Thursday, 26 February 2009

Cambo Six closes its books

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Punters complete betting forms at a Cambo Six branch in Phnom Penh. The company, which was forced to close by the police on Wednesday, said it was unable to pay all outstanding winnings.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal and Hor Hab
Thursday, 26 February 2009

Cambodia's sole licensed bookmaker receives no compensation following immediate forced closure as some punters are unable to claim winnings.

THE government fast-tracked the closure of the Kingdom's sole licensed bookmaker Wednesday after telling Cambo Six it would receive no compensation following its decision, while some customers did not receive their winnings.

Minister of Finance Keat Chhon said he signed a termination agreement with the company Wednesday, adding that the government would be free of criticism because it had agreed to cancel a licence, not a contract. Keat Chhon said the process would take a week.

But on Wednesday, Cambo Six said the police had already forced closure of all branches of the bookmaker, meaning all bets were off. Its branches in Phnom Penh, Battambang, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap remained open in some cases to pay winnings to previous customers.
Other punters went unpaid, it said.

"Due to forced closure by the authorities, we are unable to proceed [with] payout in all outlets," Cambo Six head office manager, Nancy Chau, told the Post.

The bookmaker added that this week's series of events would spell ruin.

"It will cause us tremendous damages - financially and reputation-wise," Chau said. "We know the intention of the prime minister not to renew our licence."

On Tuesday Prime Minister Hun Sen abruptly announced that the gambling entity would be forced to cease operations, claiming Cambo Six had been responsible for moral decline in the Kingdom since it began operations in early 2002. Cambo Six held an operating licence that was due to expire on January 31, 2011, prior to Wednesday's termination by the government. It currently employs 3,000 people.

It will cause us tremendous damages - financially and reputation-wise.

One employee, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that after hearing the news he would begin to look for another job, adding that some employees would find it difficult to find work due to a lack of skills. The gaming industry as a whole has experienced a downturn since the financial crisis, casino owners said, that has resulted in working hours being cut.

The employee added he was "very happy to see the government's enforcement because I don't really support gambling, though I work here".

Investment headache
Despite the premier's insistence on Tuesday when announcing the closure that the government would abide by national law so as not to "destroy" Cambodia's investment climate, Cambo Six said that complications surround the closure due to foreign investment in the company - officially, Hong Kong-based Golden Resort Group Ltd owns a 49-percent stake in Cambo Six following an investment agreement signed in June 2007.

"Our main concern is that investors - local and international - believe and understand a public tender is official until the agreement expires," said Chau.

Foreign investor
It was not immediately clear how the foreign stakeholder, Golden Resorts Group, would move forward in light of the prime minister's decision.

In announcing the acquisition of its stake in Cambo Six in July 2007, Golden Resorts Group - which has also invested in gaming in Macau - said it had originally been confident of the venture's success.

"In view of the booming economy in Cambodia, the group is optimistic that the gaming industry ... has a promising outlook," it said.



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