Posted on: May 2, 2022, 10:16h. 

Last updated on: May 2, 2022, 05:23h.

More casino activity is returning to normal after the long-running COVID-19 debacle. Donaco International’s Star Vegas in Cambodia will soon reopen its doors.

Star Vegas
Donaco International’s Star Vegas in Cambodia, seen above. The casino is waiting on permission from the Cambodian government to reopen. (Image: Agoda)

The global COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on the land-based gaming industry worldwide. Some areas took it worse than others, and a few are still in the process of trying to shake themselves free.

Among the most recent countries to emerge are Singapore and the Philippines, although there is still work. Cambodia is another that could be ready to emerge, which would be a welcome relief to Donaco International and its Star Vegas resort.

It shut down on April 27 of last year and has not been able to resume operations. That could change, provided the Cambodian government greenlights its return.

Emerging from a Nightmare

Cambodia and Thailand are in the process of relaxing cross-border travel restrictions. This could help Star Vegas, located in Poipet, start to attract more business. Thailand just relaxed its border rules yesterday, now allowing fully-vaccinated travelers to cross without submitting to additional health checks.

Any business that shutters for even a week or two will feel the squeeze. But shutting down for a year is catastrophic. With Star Vegas closed for a little more than a year, Donaco’s revenue plummeted.

The company’s financial update, filed with the Australian Securities Exchange last week, shows net revenue of $162,000 for the first three months of 2022. That’s 91.7% less than it earned last year. All of that came from Donaco’s Aristo International Hotel in Vietnam. Because Thailand relaxed its COVID-19 health rules in March, the country had a jump-start on its recovery.

Blocking major headway in Donaco’s financial stability is the Cambodian government. It has to approve the return of casino operations at Star Vegas, with a request to do so already in place. Donaco didn’t mention when it thought it might receive the permission.

Rebound Opportunities on the Way

Being able to operate Aristo has helped Donaco some, but not enough. However, additional measures should inject more money into the company.

A new airport is coming to the Lao Cai province, home to the casino resort. This will facilitate more inbound traffic to the area and, as a result, likely more traffic to the casino. Because Thailand’s vaccination rate is reportedly 94% and infection rates are down, the country has been able to relax restrictions sooner.

Relaxed travel conditions in Cambodia will also help, provided they arrive quickly. Donaco assumed it would have received permission already but can only wait.

We remain optimistic about Donaco’s long-term future. Vaccination rates have increased, leading to the easing of borders and travel restrictions in the regions we operate. It will take some time before travel patterns return to normal, and we are prepared for when international tourism will steadily resume again,” stated Donaco non-executive Chairman Paul Porntat in a financial update.

In the meantime, the company is doing what it can to survive, and it is doing a good job of making ends meet. This past January, it paid off a $93-million loan it had with Mega Bank International. Although its expenses remain high, Donaco is surviving within its means.

That survival was bolstered, in part, through a little financial assistance. Donaco CEO and Executive Director Lee Bug Huy recently gave the company a loan of $5 million that served as a lifeline.