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being transformed into the ‘Macau of the Southeast’ with around 70 casinos, many of which opened over the last two years.


Cambodian activists are calling for the demolition of the casino fearing it could just re- open and continue to damage the environment.


WHAT GOES UP... Right now there is a huge black cloud of


uncertainty hanging over Cambodia.


First came the online gambling ban at the end of 2019 introduced by the Prime Minister. Many new licences issued in Cambodia were Live- Dealer Online Casinos (LDO), a hybrid form of wagering where clients can gamble from remote locations in other countries at the Cambodian casinos. But in August 2019, Hun Sen issued a


comply and simply shut the sector down.


Tis decision had a huge detrimental affect on the gambling sector as this particular industry had grown significantly providing employment to thousands. An exodus of people occurred leaving a weakened economy.


Tis mainly affected Chinese residents and from the beginning of this year thousands of workers were being laid off, forcing thousands of Chinese workers to leave Cambodia in the weeks after the ban. It is said around 7,000 Cambodians working in the sector also lost their jobs and many casinos closed down.


Te Cambodia immigration department said some 447,000 Chinese left Cambodia after the online gambling ban, whilst the Finance


Cambodia is a key country for China’s Belt and Road initiative which aims to provide more links between China and Central Asia and Europe and has driven extra business visitors into Cambodia which doubled between 2018 and 2019 to 1.29m business visitors. With promises of financial support to help areas such as Sihanoukville, Cambodia was in theory forced to comply and simply shut the sector down.


directive to ban all online gambling by the end of the year “to safeguard security and public order” and announced it would not renew any online gaming licences when they expired.


Online gambling was particularly popular with the Chinese. However, the move to ban the practice was seen as a courtesy to China. Cambodia is a key country for China’s Belt and Road initiative which aims to provide more links between China and Central Asia and Europe and has driven extra business visitors into Cambodia, which doubled between 2018 and 2019 to 1.29 million business visitors. With promises of financial support to help areas such as Sihanoukville, Cambodia was in theory forced to


Ministry said the number of licensed casinos dropped from 163 in June 2019 to 136 in January 2020. Tere were 91 casinos that had operated online gambling and these have now ceased.


As of February 2020 there were 118 casino licences in Cambodia with 56 in Sihanoukville.


Te prediction is that annual tax revenue from the casino sector will drop by 12.5 per cent because of the ban, whilst the exodus will also have a knock-on effect on other areas such as retail and restaurants in Sihanoukville.


Te subsequent arrovial of the Coronavirus pandemic was effectively a double whammy to


Cambodia’s solar plexus. As the country went into lockdown casinos were also required to close their doors.


In Sihanoukville there are now unfinished buildings and many shuttered shops and despite the fact China has now lifted its travel restrictions it is uncertain if Chinese business owners and investors will return any time soon. Te city is in limbo. Foreign direct investment into Cambodia reached around $3.5bn last year of which 43 per cent came from China.


Cambodia adopted a State of Emergency in early April despite Hun Sen’s initial reaction to downplay the virus. Despite this, Cambodia has one of the lowest number of cases in Southeast Asia, although this is said to be down to luck and culture rather than good management of the virus.


Apparently, the Chinese government sent a team of medical experts to Cambodia to aid the fight against Covid-19 bringing with them PPE and other medical clothing and equipment.


Te country was, however, slow to act. In mid February a cruise ship, turned away from other five other ports, eventually docked in Sihanoukville, whilst there were still flights from China open long after others closed down borders and a military exercise gathering with the Chinese army was still permitted in March.


In mid-March Hun Sen introduced a series of stricter measures including the closure of schools and entertainment locations. By the beginning of August there were 241 confirmed Coronavirus cases and no deaths have been logged, although testing is limited.


All casinos in Cambodia were ordered to temporarily close down on April 1 by order of the government and they were permitted to resume business at the end of July after obtaining permission from the country’s Ministry of Health to meet certain requirements and health measures.


Operators have to make an official request to the Ministry of Health, which includes a list of Coronavirus prevention measures, before being allowed to reopen.


NEWSWIRE / INTERACTIVE / MARKET DATA P93


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