Cambodia shuts casinos as SE Asia cases rise

Cambodia shuts casinos as SE Asia cases rise

A motorbike drives past a closed casino in Sihanoukville, Cambodia Feb 16, 2020. (Reuters file photo)
A motorbike drives past a closed casino in Sihanoukville, Cambodia Feb 16, 2020. (Reuters file photo)

Cases of coronavirus have risen in Indonesia, the Philippines and Cambodia, where Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered all casinos to close.

Indonesia confirmed 129 new coronavirus infections on Monday, taking the total to 1,414, said a health ministry official.

Achmad Yurianto, the official, reported eight new deaths, taking the total to 122, while 75 had recovered.

The Philippines' health ministry on Monday reported seven new coronavirus deaths and 128 more infections.

Total deaths have risen to 78 and infections to 1,546, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told a regular news conference. With the arrival of thousands of testing kits and the start of operations of more laboratories, authorities are able to detect more infections, she added.

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.

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

He told a news conference all casinos would be closed from 23:59pm 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 $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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