Gambling ban turns Cambodia’s boom town to ghost town

Cambodia’s beach resort of Sihanoukville, which saw a boom in investments in casinos and hotels from China since 2016, is suffering from the fallout of a mass exodus of Chinese after an online gambling ban came into force on January 1 this year.

Construction work and casino openings have come to an abrupt halt when Prime Minister Hun Sen unexpectedly announced in August last year that Cambodia would criminalise online gambling. Of 72 casinos in the city, so far four have shut down and 23 have laid off employees, with more than 7,000 workers affected, according to Ministry of Labour officials.

And residents expect more to come as there were around 200 online gambling operators prior to the ban, employing more than 200,000 people.

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