I wrote in a previous blog post that for the most part it was business as usual in Cambodia during this coronavirus pandemic. While a few businesses shut down, most shops and markets continued doing commerce and all casinos in the country were still operational. Concerning that last point I recently spoke to a Khmer friend who I had asked if he ever thought Nagaworld would shut operations temporarily during this crisis. He unequivocally stated that the casino would never shut and even laughed while giving me his reply. Today all that has changed and the unthinkable has happened as the Prime Minister has announced today that all casinos throughout the country are ordered to cease operations temporarily starting on April 1, 2020. This is nothing short of a stunning announcement as it signifies that the government considers this pandemic to be a real and serious health threat, something it had not necessarily done prior.
This will no doubt affect the poker community here in Phnom Penh as Nagaworld houses the biggest poker room in town, running 4-6 tables nightly before this crisis. There are other live venues in town currently and it remains to be seen whether or not they will stay open. It will be interesting to see the result of all this as if any one of the other rooms decide to continue operations, they either face criticism for remaining open during a health threat or will be a haven for those who wish to continue playing live poker. No doubt many will also find a haven in online poker as some actually need to keep playing for their income. As an agent of online poker clubs, I can say that a shift has already occurred in the number of players jumping online as they prepare to socially distance themselves in their homes in cities all around the world. Back here in Cambodia, this essentially puts the death nail on the poker scene in Sihanoukville, which was struggling already after the ban on online gambling that caused the Chinese to flee the city in droves. There is no word on how long this order will last as the wording simply states that the closures are "temporary."
More importantly this order will affect the country on a much larger scale beyond poker. Along with the previous order to close KTVs, cinemas, clubs and hostess bars thousands will lose what are some of the highest paying jobs for locals in this country. The country is even considering declaring a state of emergency as the PM also stated during his press conference this morning that the government will convene a special meeting to work on a state of emergency draft on Friday before forwarding it to the National Assembly. I am not sure what this would entail as he said in the same breath that none of the markets, restaurants or shops would be ordered to close during this time. I imagine then the biggest impact such a declaration may have is the imposing of a curfew on the city and country at large that would keep everyone at home during the late hours. If the intention is to keep businesses open, it is unlikely that a complete lock down where everyone would have to self quarantine would be in order.
I have to admit that prior to today I was even feeling optimistic about the state of things here in Cambodia during this crisis. Reported cases of infections were low and life in Phnom Penh was hardly affected. But everything has changed today and for the first time I am thinking about things such as stocking up on food, baby formula, diapers and whatever else my family may need during this period. The closure of casinos happens in two days from the time of this writing and two days after that will be the draft on the state of emergency. No doubt I will be heading to the market tomorrow and I would advise everyone else to do the same. Even for those who still do not believe that this threat is serious, such may become irrelevant when the world around you believes it is. I did not want to interject too much of my own thoughts or judgments on this matter, but rather wanted to provide a quick update of the state of things here in Cambodia. Here's to hoping for the world to run good and quickly heal from this pandemic and wishing everyone to stay safe.
Life in the Third World
Just a collection of random and not so random thoughts from my daily life here in Cambodia.