On August 13th, 2007, the heavy clouds that are slowly gathering on this Cambodian city in the northeast could make or destroy the day of dozens of individuals that are patiently waiting on rooftops and guesthouses in the area.
The sky observers and the bookmakers and the different gamblers below frantically traded information with one another and bets. The tension rises as hopes of a good fortune rise with the drops of rain.
Normally a peaceful place during rainless day, Battambang City Beung Chhouk is alive with anticipation as the rain descends and the old game of "Phnal Tuek Phleang" or rain gambling begins.
Wagers start at 100 Thai Baht or about $3 U.S. dollars, the main currency use in the city which is near Thailand's border. A customer said that they sometimes win, sometimes don't. The most common wager that they engage in is to wager on whether a piece of paper located in a high establishment will be rained on at a certain point in the day.
The chances or odds are based on the prevailing weather conditions radioed by the weather spotters that are placed in the different towns. With different players across the country test their luck in the weather, rain wagering in Battambang has become a complex gambling industry with rules being followed. Not just any gambler can bet, you should be introduced by a person who is previously involved in the matter.
Players are usually required to deposit monthly fees. A variety of fringe games keeps normal bettors happy but continue to vex authorities. Like other types of gaming, Phnal Tuek Phleang is not allowed by the government but officers said that they are having difficulty shutting it down because it is mainly conducted with the use of mobile phones and two way radios.
So Sam Ang, the Battambang provincial deputy police chief said that they do not have enough hard evidence to file a case against the bettors. The secretary of state with the ministry of culture ,Chuch Phoeun, said that officials are worried about the growing debt of these bettors.
Rain betting, which originally was just a past time in the Cambodia has grown to be high-stakes gambling connected with violent crimes like domestic problems over lost family money. But Chuch Phoeun said that despite that fact, rain betting is an integral part of Cambodian culture especially during rainy season.
September 23, 2007