Cambodia to Close Land-Based Casinos as More Residents Contract COVID-19

Posted on: March 30, 2020, 03:39h. 

Last updated on: March 30, 2020, 10:03h.

All legal casinos in Cambodia will be shuttered indefinitely starting Thursday because of risk stemming from the coronavirus outbreak. New cases of the potentially fatal illness include a man who worked in an unidentified casino.

NagaWorld and all other casinos in Cambodia were ordered closed by the government given the risk from coronavirus. (Image: Wikipedia)

The East Asian nation reported on Monday there were four new patients with COVID-19. Officially, there are 107 cases of coronavirus in Cambodia, according to data from the Ministry of Health. Some 21 patients recovered from the virus since January, the ministry claims.

One of the four new cases is a 30-year-old man. He worked in a casino and karaoke club located in Banteay Meanchey Province, Reuters News Agency reported.

The province is in the northwestern part of Cambodia, close to Thailand. The province has several casino resorts, according to Tripadvisor.

As of 2019, there were approximately 125 casinos in Cambodia, making it a major gaming center for East Asia, Reuters said. Currently, there are approximately 120 casinos still in operation, Inside Asian Gaming said.

About half of the nation’s casinos are found in Sihanoukville. Earlier, many gaming properties there also hosted online gaming.

The casino closures were announced on Monday by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Reuters said. He gave time for players to get in some extra gambling before the closure order goes into effect.

I would like to clarify to various gamblers that if you want to gamble, do it tonight. There is still tonight and tomorrow night,” Hun Sen was quoted by Reuters.

He further explained the few days before the closure takes effect allows casino management to work out details with workers.

“It is because casino employers need to solve the issues with their employees,” Hun Sen was quoted by Inside Asian Gaming. “If we close the casinos right away, then casino employers will flee.”

NagaWorld Among the Properties to Close

Most significantly, the closing order will impact NagaWorld. It is the sole casino in the capital city of Phnom Penh.

The venue is the nation’s most prominent gaming property. Its parent company, NagaCorp, saw approximately $1.8 billion in revenue during 2019, Reuters said.

Last week, the Prime Minister ordered restaurants and bars shuttered because of the outbreak, Reuters said. He has also restricted visas for visitors from other nations.

Foreign nationals now cannot get visas, provided on arrival, for at least one month, the news report said. Foreigners must get a visa before traveling to Cambodia.

The government is requiring them to show documents “certifying that he/she has not tested positive” for COVID-19. They also must show they are signed up for adequate medical insurance.

As of last year, an estimated 5,000 Chinese tourists and business investors visited Cambodia daily. Many of the tourists visited the country to gamble.

Casinos will likely be given tax exemptions while they are closed because of coronavirus, Reuters said. Finance officials will announce details later.

Online Gambling Prohibited in 2019

The closings are another financial blow to Cambodia’s casino sector. Last year, online gaming was banned.

In 2019, the Prime Minister prohibited online gambling, which had largely targeted residents of China. The ban became effective on January 1, and the government promised to deal harshly with those flouting the law.

The move led to thousands of worker layoffs. Radio Free Asia claimed some 120,000 Chinese workers left Cambodia in the weeks after Hun Sen announced the end of online gaming. More than 7,000 Cambodians who worked in online gaming lost their jobs.

As a result of the ban, dozens of casinos were closed, Reuters said. It is still unclear how many gaming properties were actually shuttered.