Nepal Supreme Court issues reprieve for mini-casinos

    Nepal’s Supreme Court has issued an interim order for the government not to close down mini-casinos operated by three and four-star hotels in the country, according to reports.
    All casinos in Nepal have been shut down since mid-April after they failed to comply with new regulations on renewing their licenses and settling their tax bills.
    However, Central Media Pvt, which operates three casinos, filed a lawsuit against the closures.
    “Central Media has started to operate three casinos following the Supreme Court interim order,” local media cited Amba Dutta Bhatta, executive director of Casino Association of Nepal, as saying.
    Under the new casino regulations introduced in July 2013, gambling is allowed only in five-star hotels, deluxe resorts of that standard, and four-star hotels. The regulations also set the standards for casinos operated in five-star and four-star hotels. One of the ten casinos that have been closed down, Casino Royale, has applied for an operating license under the new regulations. Joint secretary of the Tourism Industry Division under the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA), Madhu Sudan Burlakoti, said that the Ministry had asked for a tax clearance certificate for up to 2012/2013 and that Casino Royale produce a document from Nepal Rastra Bank saying that it had not been blacklisted in the past. Casino Royale owes Rs 49.5 million in dues.
    The country’s seven casinos in the capital Kathmandu owe the government 657.66 million rupees ($10.8 million) in tax and royalties and also have outstanding debts to local hotels.
    The casino shutdowns are expected to have a major impact on the country’s tourism industry.
    Casinos are estimated to pull in about 150,000 foreign tourists annually, mostly Indians, who contribute about 15 percent to the occupancy rate at the five-star hotels in Kathmandu. Nepal’s casinos had already been suffering and losing Indian tourists to casinos in Goa.