Over 7,000 Cambodians have lost their jobs and hundreds of casinos have been shut down since August’s ban on online gambling, with more casualties anticipated as government inspections begin this week, officials said on Tuesday.
Sihanoukville’s southern coastal city has emerged as a gambling centre and there are online gambling operations in many of the dozens of Chinese-run casinos that have emerged there.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said this week that after first announcing a halt in August, he would make the online gambling ban permanent, saying that foreign criminals used the industry to extort money.
Officials were due to inspect all casinos nationwide starting January 1 to make sure they have shut down their online operations, Reuters told according to Ros Phearun, Deputy Director-General of Finance Ministry’s Department of Financial Industry.
Ros Phearun said government revenue would be hard hit as online gambling contributed roughly a quarter of an estimated $80 million annually in overall casino taxes.
An unspecified number of casinos had ceased operations since the announcement in August, with 136 remaining nationally by December, he said.
By the end of January, the amount is projected to go down to 94 casinos, according to Phearun.
“When online gambling was banned they went back to their country, then there is a decline in casinos,” Phearun said, adding that the ban hit Sihanoukville hard, with the number of casinos reduced by half from over 70 to 36 remaining.
Yov Khemara, head of the labour department of Sihanoukville, said on Tuesday that after the ban, more than 7,700 locals were left unemployed.
“Before, they worked in factories and when there was better salary in casinos, they came to work in casinos,” Yov Khemara said.
He said many of those employees were returning to factories now.