Having finally lost patience with its gaming sector, the Nepal government has now made all ten casinos illegal ordering them to close immediately after failing to heed several warnings to pay licensing and royalty fees.
According to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, the Nepalese government is owed a total of US$10m. It had repeatedly asked seven casinos and three electronic, mini casinos to pay for new operating licences.
It stated: “The ministry didn’t renew licenses of the ten casinos operating in the premises of different five-star hotels in the country as some didn’t apply for renewal within the given time-frame and applications of others were filed without fulfilling due process. Since most failed to approach us till and the few that filed applications lacked documents, operating licences of all casinos and electronic gaming companies will expire. Against this backdrop, it would be illegal for any casino or gaming company to continue carrying out their businesses from Sunday onwards.”
Following the closures of Casino Shangri-La in Kathmandu, Casino Grande and Casino Fulbari some months ago, there had been eight casinos operating in Kathmandu and two in Pokhara, employing some 11,000 people. They had been in conflict with the government following a rise in annual royalties to Rs40m.
Some casino operators had refused to pay. One said: “A 100 per cent increment in royalty for casinos and an almost 600 per cent hike in royalty for gaming centres would push casino and gaming businesses to the verge of collapse.”
Kishore Silwal, President of the
Casino Association of Nepal said: “We’ll again knock on the government’s door. We’ve been paying taxes and royalty to the government. However, higher royalty, among other fees, has hit our business. We had reservations over the government´s decision to impose duty by doubling royalty as per the Casino Rules 2013. The decision has left more than 11,000 people employed by the casinos jobless. As the government decision has rendered thousands of people jobless, we will be putting pressure on the government to review the regulation and pave the way for casinos to resume their business. We have been asking the government to amend the Casino Regulation and ask it again now to do the same.”
The closures will probably not spell the end for Nepal’s four and a half decade old casino sector though.
Madhu Sudan Burlakoti, Chief of Tourism Industry Division under MoCTCA, said: “The licences of the casinos and mini casinos have been officially scrapped but this doesn’t mean that casinos cannot operate in Nepal.. This means all the casinos are illegal now. If any of them want to operate its business, it has to apply for a new operating licence.”