The Cambodian authorities have ordered all casinos in the country to shut down with effect from Wednesday night, as part of a number of measures to prevent the spread in Cambodia of the novel coronavirus responsible for the Covid-19 infection.
“I’ve issued an order to close all casinos from 23.59pm… April 1, 2020 onwards,” Prime Minister Hun Sen told a news conference on Monday, as reported by Chinese news agency Xinhua.
He added: “This is just a temporary closure, and they will be allowed to resume their operations when the situation stabilises.”
The Cambodian prime minister said that the country’s finance ministry would work with casinos on tax exemptions while gaming operations were suspended, stated Reuters news agency.
The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have led to market-wide temporary closures of casinos in key gaming jurisdictions in the Asia-Pacific region, including the Philippines, South Korea and Malaysia. Macau ordered the suspension of operations at all casino facilities for 15 days in February.
Casino markets across other parts of the world also have recently reported either total shutdowns of casino business, or much-reduced revenue amid travel restrictions and health checks on consumers arriving at venues due to the global disease alert.
As of Monday, there were a total of 107 infection cases by the virus causing Covid-19 reported in Cambodia, according to a statement of the Ministry of Health. One of four new cases reported on Monday involved a worker in a casino and karaoke club in the northwestern province of Banteay Meanchey, near the border with Thailand, Reuters news agency reported, quoting the ministry.
The authorities in Cambodia last week had ordered restaurants and bars to close, as a measure against the Covid-19 pandemic. The government also had limited entry visas for foreigners.
Reuters stated in its report that, as of December 2019, there were “more than 125 casinos operating” in Cambodia, “many of them Chinese-run”. The news agency did not provide a source for the information.
Xinhua news agency quoted the Cambodian prime minister as saying that, aside from the NagaWorld complex in capital Phnom Penh – a property run by Hong Kong-listed NagaCorp Ltd – all other casinos in Cambodia were located in border areas or in Sihanoukville.
A person familiar with the situation told GGRAsia that NagaWorld would be closing its gaming operations in compliance with the Cambodian government’s instructions. Hotel operations at the resort would continue. The person noted that prior to the planned gaming closure, NagaWorld had been practising safety measures including spacing between casino patrons.
In February NagaCorp said it remained “confident that even if its financial performance may be impacted” by the current global coronavirus crisis “in the next six months of operations and beyond, the long-term prospects of the company remain good”.
Donaco International Ltd, an Australia-listed boutique operator of casinos in Indochina, announced last week it was closing “most” of its Star Vegas casino property. The property is located near Cambodia’s Poipet border with Thailand.
The firm explained at the time its decision to scale back operations at Star Vegas followed an announcement by the Thai authorities, stating the border crossing from Thailand into Cambodia via Poipet had been closed for 14 days. The goal was to control the further spread in Thailand of the Covid-19 infection.
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"One thing that is certain under the coronavirus era is that the biggest beneficiaries are the illegal operators, both bricks and mortar and online"
Partner and director overseeing government affairs at casino industry consultancy Global Market Advisors