Cambodia orders shutdown of casinos

by Ethan Anderson Last Updated
Cambodia orders shutdown of casinos

The Cambodian Prime Minister has ordered the shut down of all of the country’s casino to stop the spread of coronavirus.

News.com.au reports that Cambodia reported four new virus cases on Monday, bringing its tally to 107, according to the Ministry of Health statement.

The new cases include a 30-year-old man who had worked in a casino and karaoke bar in the northwestern province of Banteay Meanchey, near the border with Thailand.

Prime Minister Hun Sen told a news conference all casinos would be closed from 11.59 pm on April 1.

“I would like to clarify to various gambler that if you want to gamble, do it tonight. There is still tonight and tomorrow night,” Hun Sen said.

The Cambodian leader was an early sceptic of coronavirus but cases have begun to increase and last week his government ordered restaurants and bars to close and it limited entry visa for foreigners.

Hun Sen said that the finance ministry would work with casinos on tax exemptions while they were suspended.

Cambodia has emerged as a gambling haven for Southeast Asia in recent years, with more than 125 casinos operating as of December 2019, many of them Chinese run.

Revenue figures for the industry are not available, but NagaCorp, which has the exclusive licence to operate in Phnom Penh, reported an estimated US$1.8 billion revenue last year.

Gambling operators comply with new Cambodian laws

Cambodia’s casinos are observing the country’s newly implemented online gambling ban, according to government officials.

Calvin Ayre reported in January that the Ministry of Finance official Ros Phearun said all of its 91 casinos that had been offering online gambling had ceased those operations on January 1, in accordance with the directive issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen in August.

Phearun said a joint committee consisting of government officials, police officers and military police had conducted inspections of all 91 casinos since the online gambling licence revocation took effect.

These inspections will continue for the foreseeable future to ensure that no casinos attempt to restart their online offering once the media focus shifts.

Phearun said there are now 118 licensed casinos in Cambodia, a significant reduction from the day before Christmas, when there were 141 casinos.

Around 70 casinos were based in Preah Sihanouk province, but by December 31, Phearun told Reuters that there were now only 36.

Yov Khemara, director of Preah Sihanouk’s labour department said that 33 local casinos have suspended their operations follow Hun Sen’s August directive and another 22 casinos had shut down completely.

Countrywide, around 7,000 individuals are believed to have lost their jobs after news of the online gambling ban circulated.

Those lots jobs pale in comparison to the 447,676 Chinese nations that Cambodia’s General Department of Immigration claim left the country follow August’s online gambling directive.

In September, Chinese officials had dismissed claims of an exodus, saying the number of ex-pats fleeing was around 5000.

Phearun said this week that some of the casinos that were still open were taking a wait-and-see approach for “one or two months to see if they can make earnings” without online gambling revenue.

Phearun doesn’t hold out hope that many of these shaky operations will make it, saying the government “believe that more casinos will cease their businesses.”

Or go underground.

Some local activists believe many online gambling operations will simply move from casinos to rented houses or other nondescript venues.

The authorities have also been urged not to limit their inspections to Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh but to also keep a close eye on the special economic zones on the country’s borders with Vietnam and Thailand.

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