This past weekend witnessed the return of full operations of Donaco International’s Star Vegas casino in Cambodia. This was after the lifting of border restrictions between the country and Thailand.
Donaco announced in a filing with the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) that it commenced operations at Star Vegas on June 17. In addition, it confirmed that both the government and the local authorities had lifted the temporary closures of casino operations in the border city of Poipet, where Star Vegas is situated.
The casino had been operating only on a temporary basis and only to local traffic for almost two years. On September 25, 2020, Cambodia implemented border-crossing restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19.
One Step at a Time
Donaco’s gradual transition to full operation will allow it to continue its cost-control strategies, the company added in the filing. Like all operators, it implemented measures across the business as a response to the effects of the pandemic.
Paul Porntat Amatavivadhana, the non-executive chairman of Star Vegas, said that the reopening of the resort is a great step in the right direction. He added that the property looks forward to returning to full-scale operations as soon as possible.
Porntat acknowledged that there would be an extended ramp-up period before things return to normal. However, the easing of travel restrictions is an encouraging sign.
In tandem with favorable macroeconomic conditions, we will maintain our focus on prudent control of corporate and operation costs,” said Star Vegas non-executive chairman Porntat Amatavivadhana.
Cambodians cannot gamble legally in the country. However, as foreigners can, Thailand has historically been the origin of many Star Vegas customers. In addition, Poipet has a large ex-pat community that can legally gamble.
Ouk Sorphorn, Cambodia’s ambassador to Thailand, told The Post that opening the borders to Thailand would encourage trade and investment, as well as boost the economy. He emphasized the importance it has on “bilateral trade, tourism, and investment,” and how many companies in Thailand are now expanding their businesses in Cambodia.
Cambodian tourism ministry data shows that the number of tourists traveling from Thailand to Cambodia reached 81,844 last year. It was the leader among the top-ten most visited countries, with China taking second (45,775). In third place was Vietnam, with 22,120.
Help Wanted, Apply Within
NagaWorld, NagaCorp’s Cambodian property, reopened about eight months ago. Now, Star Vegas follows suit. However, all casinos in the country still have difficulty finding quality employees.
Despite the recent reopening permits, the government stated that casinos cannot find adequate. In addition, some have been struggling to find the funding required to maintain their buildings after the prolonged shutdowns.
As a result, some smaller casino operators are shutting down. Ros Phirun, the deputy director-general of the Finance Ministry’s Financial Industry Department, told the Khmer Times recently that some casinos operating in border regions like Poipet are not seeking license renewal.
Cambodian officials reported previously that the country has one of the highest vaccination rates in Asia. The country fully opened its borders for quarantine-free travel for vaccinated visitors last November.
With government intervention, Cambodia’s tourism industry may grow by 16% and 23% in 2022 and 2023, respectively. Before COVID-19, Cambodia had generated $4.9 billion in tourism revenue, which accounted for 32.7% of the total GDP.
The pandemic left the tourism industry in shambles for the past two years due to a lack of tourism. In 2019, Cambodia had 6.61 million tourists. However, in 2020 and 2021, the shutdowns resulted in just 1.5 million international tourists.
The arrival of foreign tourists in Cambodia during the first four months of this year was up sharply to 230,000. This is 180% more than the same period last year.
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