Nepal’s Casino industry seeks a fresh start in 2015

In Nepal, the casino industry hopes for a fresh start after 2014 when all gaming houses were closed after operators’ failure to comply with new official regulations.

Nepal’s Tourism Ministry says both new foreign and Nepali operators are ready to reopen casinos under new regulations enforced in July 2013.

But concerns remain among previous operators over the government’s tough regulations that   involved a sharp rise in fees.

Hong Kong-based Silver Heritage Limited, is awaiting final approval to run the Shangri-La casino housed at Shangri-La Hotel & Resort.

Silver Heritage, with plans to run a gaming house in a joint venture with a local Nepal company, received a pre-approval notification to operate a casino in January by the Department of Tourism. The plan is to invest US$100 million in casinos and a five-star hotel in Nepal.

India’s gaming and hospitality firm Delta Corp is also assessing the possibility of a casino in Nepal. Delta has registered a company with the Department of Industry with the name “Vegas City International”. But despite plans to invest Rs 3 billion ($48.3 million), the company is still to apply for an operating license.

Delta Corp is recognized as the largest player in organized gaming in India with some 200 live gaming tables in casinos in Goa and Daman.

The Tourism Department has asked Everest Casino, located at the Hotel Everest, as well as a casino at the Soaltee Hotel to apply for a new operating permit as set down by the new regulations.

A committee has been set up to prepare a casino operating manual with the aim of ensuring the process is made easier to operate a casino in Nepal, given the potential windfalls from tourism revenues.

The new 2013 regulations required casinos to have a paid up capital of at least Rs 250 million (approx. $4 million). This regulation under the Financial Bill 2013-14 led to a doubling of the royalty paid to the government. The Royalty was finally set at Rs 30 million (about $483,000) following industry complaints. Concern has also been raised over a 25 percent windfall tax to be paid on customer winnings. The fees and tax rates have led to industry complaints by both new and established operators.

The Casino Royale housed at Hotel Yak & Yeti has re-opened since late January after the Supreme Court issued a stay order to let the casino operate under the old rule. The casino had been forcefully closed on November 23 last year by the Tourism Ministry that it was being operated illegally. However, the casino took the case to the Supreme Court for a fresh decision.