he Ministry of Health said in a statement that there were four new cases of the coronavirus in Cambodia, prompting the Prime Minister's decision to close all casinos in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.
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.
Prime Minister Hun Sen told a news conference all casinos would be closed from 23:59 p.m. on April 1, Reuters reports.
“I would like to clarify 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 skeptic 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.