Cambodia PM orders casinos shut down as coronavirus cases climb

A motorbike drives past a closed casino in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. (Reuters pic)

PHNOM PENH: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday ordered all casinos to close to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Cambodia reported four new cases of the coronavirus on Monday, bringing its tally to 107, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

The new cases included a 30-year old man who had worked in a casino and karaoke club in the northwestern province of Banteay Meanchey, near the border with Thailand, the ministry said.

Hun Sen told a news conference all casinos would be closed from 11.59pm on April 1.

“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.

The Cambodian leader was an early sceptic of coronavirus but cases have begun to increase and last week his government ordered restaurants and bars to close and it limited entry visas for foreigners.

Hun Sen said that the finance ministry would work with casinos on tax exemptions while they were suspended.

Cambodia has emerged as a gambling haven for Southeast Asia in recent years, with more than 125 casinos operating as of December 2019, many of them Chinese-run.

While no revenue figures for the industry nationwide are available, NagaCorp, which has the exclusive license to operate in Phnom Penh, reported an estimated US$1.8 billion in revenue last year.

The industry took a hit late last year when Hun Sen banned online gambling, resulting in thousands of layoffs and dozens of casinos closing.

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