Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen today ordered the nationwide closure of casinos as the tally of coronavirus cases keeps climbing in the Southeast Asian nation.
The country reported four new Covid-19 cases on Monday, bringing the total number of infected people to 107.
One of the latest cases included a 30-year-old man who had worked at a casino and a karaoke club near Cambodia’s border with Thailand, according to a statement from the country’s Ministry of Health.
The temporary closure of Cambodia’s casinos becomes effective from 23:59 pm on April 1, Prime Minister Hun Sen said during a news conference held earlier today.
The Asian country’s top official said that he “would like to clarify to various gamblers that if you want to gamble, do it tonight […] there is still tonight and tomorrow night.”
Cambodia is among the late adopters of stern measures to arrest the advance of the coronavirus after Prime Minister Hun Sen had tried to downplay the seriousness of the disease early on. The official had even criticized local coverage of the global pandemic for blowing it out of proportion.
Coronavirus cases have begun to increase rapidly in Cambodia in recent days, which necessitated urgent measures to help stem the spread of the virus. Last week, the country’s government ordered the temporary closure of restaurants and bars and introduced limits to entry visas for foreigners.
Tax Exemptions During Shutdown
Prime Minister Hun Sen said today that the Finance Ministry will work with the country’s casinos on tax exemptions while they are closed. In recent years, Cambodia has become a boon for casino gaming activity, drawing patrons mainly from Mainland China, but also from other countries in the region.
The country’s leader said that the casino closures were only temporary and that the gambling venues would be allowed to resume operations once “the situation stabilizes.”
As of December 2019, there were 125 casinos operating around Cambodia, the majority of them run by Chinese nationals. Most of the gambling venues are located along the nation’s borders and in the Sihanoukville Province in the southwest.
The only casino resort located in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh is operated by gaming and hospitality operator NagaCorp. The property generated an estimated $1.8 billion in revenue in 2019.
The temporary shutdown of Cambodia’s casinos comes as a fresh heavy blow to its gaming industry after Prime Minister Hun Sen banned the provision of online gambling services from within the country late last year.
The move resulted in thousands of people losing their jobs and dozens of casinos around Cambodia closing. Most of the country’s online gaming businesses were set up by Chinese companies and targeted gamblers from China where digital gambling is prohibited.