PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia said on Sunday it is banning online gambling, which helped propel a wave of Chinese investment in casinos in the country, saying that the industry had been used by foreign criminals to extort money.
The southern coastal city of Sihanoukville has emerged as a particular center for gambling and many of the dozens of Chinese-run casinos that have sprung up there have online gambling operations.
"The Royal Government of Cambodia will stop the issuance of online gambling policy and licenses, both within and outside of the Kingdom of Cambodia, from the date of signing this directive," said a directive signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
"Some foreign criminals have taken refuge in the form of this gambling to cheat and extort money from victims, domestic and abroad, which affect the security, public order and social order," the directive said.
China is Cambodia's close ally, its biggest donor and investor . It has also been trying to crack down on cross-border gambling, criticizing operations in the Philippines that are similar to those in Cambodia.
(The story corrects to remove extraneous word in the 1st paragraph).
(Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Richard Borsuk)