One of the nations in the Asia region with the lowest confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, Cambodia is set to get back on track after reportedly stabilizing the spread of the illness. Disclosed by government spokesperson Phay Siphan, the announcement of casinos in the country being allowed to resume operations came last Friday while allowing “bet and machine games only” to run. According to Siphan, Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen revealed the decision during their weekly Cabinet meeting. The casino operators however, would need to meet certain health requirements to obtain permission from the country’s Ministry of Health prior to reopening their respective venues.
While no specific measures were included in the announcement, a total of 193 licensed casinos are scheduled to move forward following the three-month temporary shutdown effective since last April 1 in efforts to prevent the spread of infection. NagaWorld complex, Cambodia’s major casino operator situated in the capital Phnom Penh, quickly announced that it has already executed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Health to relaunch its VIP and slot machine gaming segments this coming July 8 under reduced capacity.
A representative from the Hong Kong-listed Nagacorp Ltd said in a statement,
“On 4 July 2020, a technical team of the Ministry of Health had conducted a physical site inspection of the casino premises of NagaWorld and concluded that the Company is in compliance with requirements of the health rules and also with the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) as set by the Ministry of Health in the prevention of the spread of COVID-19,”
“As a result, a Certificate of Clearance was issued in favor of the Company and consent was given to the Company to reopen the VIP and Slot Gaming Machines businesses.”
In relation with the prior announcement, Siphan also noted that the government has made some progress in the kingdom’s long-awaited bill, officially called the Law on the Management of Integrated Resorts and Commercial Gambling, which aims to have better control and overall regulation of the gaming industry. Director General of Financial Industry at Cambodia’s Ministry of Economy and Finance, Mey Vann likewise previously highlighted the importance of proper development of the casino industry to boost tourism, as well as to attract investment geared towards launching high-standard integrated resorts in the near future.
Vann in addition, outlined in a statement “No other casino has submitted a letter asking to reopen because their owners have yet to prepare their establishments for it. Casinos along the Thai and Vietnamese borders also have not reopened.”
The end of a difficult period for employees in the gaming industry?
With many employees struggling to find work in means to survive these past few months, the announcement of the casinos being allowed to reopen will come as a relief for thousands of workers in the industry. The three-month hiatus for the country’s gaming establishments have resulted in its employees to be temporarily out of work or under suspension pay for some.
Just last month, local news reported about 200 NagaWorld employees demonstrating in front of the Labor Ministry after Phnom Penh’s sole licensed casino operator recently stopped offering its workers suspension pay while the complex remained closed.
For the duration of the shutdown, the Hong Kong-listed corporation previously agreed to pay 50% of the employees’ salaries according to Chhim Sithar, president of NagaWorld’s employee union but stopped paying them.
Sithar followed by presenting the ministry three union-favored options: pay workers 30% of their salaries and loan another 20% from future salaries, lend workers $300 every month until they can return to work or allow workers to borrow the value of their salaries for 15 remaining paid holidays as to which NagaWorld’s head of communications Dy Seyha declined to comment.
Employee concerns were further brought on the table with NagaWorld worker Ry Sovandy saying, “This strongly affects us. Most of the banks do not tolerate [late payments]. We don’t know what to do.”
With no income to expect, many workers were left to worry on how to provide for their families’ daily expenses.
Additionally, a group representing the nation’s casino employees petitioned the government to include them in the social-support program covering affected workers under closed businesses affected by the ongoing pandemic. The $100 million program is said to provide staff a payment of US$40 per month as extended assistance for the suffering workforce.
The request however, was eventually declined as the relevant budget had already been finalized by the government.
With the restricted reopening in place, employees in the gaming industry will at the same time, be given the opportunity to return back to work providing thousands of affected citizens a means to finance their needs.