NagaCorp announces Cambodian reopening

By Noah Taylor Updated
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Land-based casino operator NagaCorp has announced the reopening of its entire Cambodian estate, following a period of temporary closure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

iGaming Business reports that last month, NagaCorp signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Health, enabling its flagship NagaWorld Cambodia casino to recommence activities on July 8.

This formed part of a pilot project ahead of a proposed wider reopening of its casino venues across the country.

NagaCorp and the Ministry have now attached an annexure to the memorandum of understanding, whereby it will be able to reopen its other casino businesses across Cambodia, including all pokies machines and VIP gambling services.

The operator said that it would continue to adhere to the terms set out under the original memorandum, including providing isolation rooms for customers, enforcing distancing and placing sanitiser and other safety equipment around the location.

Masks and temperature checks will also be required for guests and staff and the operator’s casinos.

NagaWorld to reopen in Cambodia following virus closure

Cambodia’s largest casino operator plans to partially reopen its flagship Phnom Penh gaming venue today following its three-month COVID-19 shutdown.

Calvin Ayre reported earlier this month that NagaCorp had decided, in agreement with Cambodia’s Ministry of Health, to reopen the company’s VIP table game and pokie machine elements at its NagaWorld casino.

Mass market gaming operations will reopen at an unspecified later date.

NagaCorp claims the agreement was signed with the government on June 30, four days prior to the government officially announcing its decision to permit the country’s casino to reopen.

The government ordered all casinos to close on April 1 to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

NagaWorld’s restart was subject to the Ministry approving certain health and safety measures, which reportedly occurred following a physical inspection of the casino on July 4.

Pokies capacity will be reduced to 50 per cent, while gaming tables will be limited to three customers apiece – effectively 43 per cent capacity and no ‘standing’ bets will be permitted.

The casino’s food and beverage outlets have been given the all clear to operate at 50 per cent capacity, but the buffet remains off limits.

Casino guests will be subject to temperature checks and must wear masks, while the property has also established five “isolation rooms” in case any guests display signs of possible COVID-19 infection.

Cambodia’s government has yet to authorise any similar reopenings for the dozens of casinos that populate the border areas such as Bavet and Poipet, or for any gaming venues in Sihanoukville.

A senior member of the Ministry of Economy and Finance told the Phnom Penh Post that “no other casino has submitted a letter asking to reopen because their owners have yet to prepare their establishments for it.”

NagaCorp’s official statement said the government was taking a “step-by-step approach” to restarting its casino industry and that NagaWorld’s reopening “shall serve as a template for application for reopening of business by other casinos, if there is any request for permission to reopen.”

Chen growing gambling in Cambodia

Despite the coronavirus outbreak taking a toll on gaming, Chen Lip Keong is trying his luck in Russia.

His NagaCorp company is building a $300 million casino hotel outside Vladivostok, due to open in 2021.

“I like the entrepreneurial spirit behind the development,” Chen told Forbes in March.

Booming growth at his Cambodian casino complex helped push Chen’s net worth up six per cent to $5.3 billion, now at number four on Forbes’ list.

NagaCorp’s share price has nearly doubled since November 2017, when the Naga2 extension opened in Phnom Penh.

Chen, 72, has used the monopoly licence he won in 1994 to ride Cambodia’s economic re-emergence from decades of war and more recently, a wave of investment and tourism from China into Cambodia.

In 2006, NagaCorp became the first casino operator and the first Cambodia-based company – to list in Hong Kong.

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