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In 2010, the Ha Tien Vegas Entertainment Resort, a casino investment on Kampot province’s border with Vietnam that included luxury karaoke rooms and suites, launched with high hopes of attracting Vietnamese gamblers. At the end of December, Ha Tien Vegas closed down.
To the north, in Savannakhet on the Lao border with Thailand, another casino, the Savan Vegas Hotel and Entertainment Complex, is doing better business.
Two U.S. gambling magnates with business interests in Phnom Penh have been linked to both casinos through online, virtual gambling.
Via video link-up, online gamers, playing in English, Thai or Mandarin, can gamble on live tables with Lao and foreign croupiers at the Savan Vegas casino.
A similar online gaming service was offered at the Ha Tien Vegas casino when it was in operation at the website htv999.com. Though that casino is closed, the htv999.com website is now rerouted to the live tables at the Laos casino, which is also accessed through the websites clubvegas999.com and savanvegas999.com.
The Savan Vegas casino is operated by Macau-based Sanum Investments, but the company that offers the online gaming experience is Creative Entertainment Ltd., which has an office on Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changva peninsula, and provides access to virtual casinos through the domains clubvegas999.com and savanvegas999.com.
Their websites display a license issued in the Dutch dependency of Curacao, a small island in the Caribbean that offers licenses to online gaming operations.
Regulators worldwide are coming to terms with the highly profitable world of online gambling, which operates across jurisdictions and poses questions over licensing, taxation and enforcement of local laws—including laws in Cambodia.
For its part, Cambodia is yet to pass any regulations on online gaming.
Officials at the small department within the Finance Ministry that deals with casino licensing said they were unable to say whether it was legal or not.
In the past, Cambodian authorities have quickly shut down online gambling operations. Most recently, 114 Indonesians were deported in September, 2012, after authorities found they were running what police called an “illegal” football betting website from a villa in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district.
It is unclear whether Creative Entertainment’s license in Curacao is enough to satisfy authorities in Cambodia.
Creative Entertainment counsel Marc Borg wrote on June 26 that a statement posted on the website of clubvegas999.com, which stated, “We are registered and licensed by the Kingdom of Cambodia for Casino operations including online,” was erroneous. He also said that Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Scott are no longer associated with Creative Entertainment.
“Unfortunately, the references on several other pages on the website to Creative Entertainment being licensed in Cambodia for online gaming were holdovers of draft website pages from quite some time ago when we were contemplating licensing in Cambodia,” Mr. Borg said.
The website has now been changed.
By Simon Lewis - August 5, 2013
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