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Sihanoukville casinos seek to reopen despite Covid

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The provincial hall said 21 casinos have requested permission to resume operations. Heng Chivoan

Sihanoukville casinos seek to reopen despite Covid

Preah Sihanouk Provincial Hall spokesman Kheang Phearum said on Wednesday that 21 casinos in the coastal province have requested permission to resume operations.

If approved, their requests would be forwarded to the national government for review.

All casinos have had to suspend their operations since April 1 due to government guidelines in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Prime Minister Hun Sen allowed them to operate again on July 3, but gambling tables had to be situated at least one metre from each other. Group gambling games were prohibited.

Casino owners must ask permission from the Ministry of Health and install Covid-19 prevention measures if they wanted to reopen the rest of their business, Phearum said.

“Seven casino owners requested a resumption [of operations] during the first phase [of requests], while 14 casino owners requested a resumption during the second phase. The decision falls on the Ministry of Health. If it permits, their reopening is legal,” he said.

He did not confirm if any casino has resumed operation but suspects that a series of requests would be forthcoming shortly.

Director-general of the General Department of Financial Industry at the Ministry of Economy and Finance Mey Vann said all casino owners wanted to resume their operations.

Vann said over 10 casinos in Preah Sihanouk had recently requested national-level permission to reopen and they are being reviewed.

Casino owners in Bavet and Poipet towns had not yet requested to reopen because the borders with Vietnam and Thailand were still closed, he said.

Phnom Penh’s NagaWorld is the only casino that has been permitted to resume operations.

Royal Academy of Cambodia economics researcher Hong Vanak said the casino industry had generated incomes for the State via monthly and yearly tax payments. It had also created jobs for citizens.

But he said casinos may face a lack of gamblers when they reopen.

Vanak said casinos have positive and negative points. Some gamblers may lose their money and end up affecting public order, but casinos pay taxes and create jobs too.

He said the most important thing is managing who is allowed to enter casinos. Vanak wants to see how casinos will be regulated.

Neither Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine nor it secretary of state York Sambath could be reached for comment on Wednesday.

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