The closure of 56 casinos in Preah Sihanouk province has left more than 7,000 people unemployed, according to figures reported by the provincial labour department yesterday.
Provincial authorities on Wednesday began inspecting casinos as part of the ban on online and arcade gambling operations announced by Prime Minister Hun Sen in August.
Yov Khemara, director of the provincial labour department, yesterday said 56 out of 75 casinos in the province gradually closed since Mr Hun Sen announced the ban, noting 33 casinos suspended all operations, while 23 completely shut down.
Mr Khemara said about 7,700 people lost their jobs when the ban took effect earlier this week.
He noted most casinos in the province were owned and managed by Chinese nationals. Those who shut down their casinos left the Kingdom.
“The casino employers decided to end the contracts of Cambodian workers – only [a handful] of Chinese workers stayed to guard the casinos,” Mr Khemara said.
The General Department of Immigration on Tuesday said about 447,000 Chinese nationals left the Kingdom after the ban was announced in August.
He noted the government still allows casinos to operate in the Kingdom, but many shut down because of technical problems and lack of customers.
“Some casinos only ran online and arcade gambling operations,” Mr Khemara said.
He said many of the casino workers may look for work in companies based in special economic zones, but some have returned home.
“Some of those unemployed workers have returned home to farm, while others returned to work as garment workers,” Mr Khemara said.
Nhoem Puthea, a casino worker who lost his job, yesterday said many laid-off workers have not yet received their severance pay from their former employers.
“[My] company did not explain why operations ceased, they just paid our last salaries,” he said.
Mr Puthea expects more casinos will shut down leaving more workers unemployed.
“Most casinos in Sihanoukville ran online gambling – most of them are inactive now,” he said. “The government wants to reduce the number of crimes stemmed from online gambling, but Cambodians lost their jobs.”
According to the Information Ministry, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Preah Sihanouk held a meeting on Tuesday with Chinese investors from 40 companies to figure out a solution for unemployed workers.
The ministry said Jiang Kexing, secretary-general of the chamber, noted Chinese companies in special economic zones are urged to help by employing the laid-off casino workers.
“This is not only to meet the human resource needs of a company but also contribute to society…and set a good example for other Chinese investors,” the ministry quoted Mr Jiang as saying.
It added the representatives from the 40 companies responded positively to accepting laid-off casino workers.
Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, yesterday said despite the layoff of thousands of workers due to the ban, his union supports the move to crack down on online and arcade gambling operations.
Mr Sina said other casino workers in other provinces are facing similar situations.
“Banning all online and arcade gambling is a good thing to do because it will help reduce the number of crimes being committed,” he said. “We were previously concerned about security in Sihanoukville due to online gambling.”
“I think our workers will have employment options if the government continues to address challenges,” Mr Sina added.