A few months back when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global health emergency in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, many of the leaders in different countries were concerned about what this virus would entail. Since then, the disease has infected a total of 743,190 patients along with 35,349 casualties worldwide. Cambodia is no exception to the current pandemic, reporting a tally of 107 confirmed cases with no recorded deaths to date.
Seemingly low in count in comparison with nearby countries, China and South Korea holding a total count of 81,470 and 9,661 positive individuals respectively, Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Hun Sen is taking extra precautionary measures to contain the spread of the virus.
Following the report of four new cases of the Coronavirus involving a 30 year old casino and karaoke club employee in the northwestern province of Banteay Meanchey, Hun Sen released an order to close all casinos beginning 11:59pm on April 1, 2020 until further notice in an effort to curb the increase of infections in the country.
“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 said in a statement. He also added “This is just a temporary closure, and they will be allowed to resume their operations when the situation stabilizes.”
This follows suit of neighboring Asian countries in which strict quarantines and lockdowns are enforced including casinos and other non-essential businesses to be non-operational. Initially skeptical of the virus, the Cambodian leader attempted to downplay the gravity of the disease early on, criticizing local coverage for blowing it out of proportion. Seeing as the virus is rapidly spreading in the Southeast Asia region, the official has begun to mandate its citizens in the direction taken by the majority of the world population. Just last week, the country’s government ordered restaurants and bars to shut down as well for the meantime. Entry visas for foreigners are also limited with visitors from Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the United States specifically, banned for 30 days.
Tax exemptions during the temporary suspension
Hun Sen also relayed in the news conference that the country’s finance ministry will work together with the casinos regarding tax exemptions during the temporary suspension.
According to authorities, there is only one operational casino in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh while the rest are located along the borders and in Sihanoukville City in the Southwest. In the latter alone, the province estimates close to a hundred gambling venues, a majority run by Chinese nationals.
NagaCorp Ltd, the hospitality and gaming operator of NagaWorld Integrated Resort, holds an exclusive gaming license for the country’s capital and has reported an estimated $1.8 billion in revenue for 2019.
With a crackdown on gambling currently in effect, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen outlawed online gaming services by the end of last year. The recently developed regulation brought a heavy blow to the gambling industry resulting in thousands of people out of their jobs and dozens of casinos in Cambodia closing.