Posted on: April 4, 2022, 06:14h. 

Last updated on: April 4, 2022, 06:14h.

Nepal officials must be increasingly frustrated with casino operators. Last week, its Department of Tourism had to revoke three casino licenses over unpaid fees, resulting in five closures since February.

The Nepal countryside continues to lose more casinos. Officials are cracking down on properties that don’t pay their annual fees. (Image: Asia Gaming Brief)

All casinos in all jurisdictions have to give up some of their revenue to the respective governments. It’s standard operation procedures around the world and the operators know from the start what their obligations are.

Some casinos in Nepal aren’t playing by the rules. Authorities shut down two properties in February over unpaid dues. They have now added another three to that list. Meanwhile, though, the country is losing millions of dollars in expected revenue.

Nepal Cracking Down on Casinos

The Nepalese Department of Tourism (DOT) stripped Rock International PVT, Happy Hour Kathmandu and Oriental Hotels, Lazimpat of their licenses last week, according to The Himalayan Times. All three license suspensions came following several unsuccessful attempts to get the operators to pay their outstanding dues.

The biggest offender is Rock International. It owes the government Rs303.8 million (US$2.51 million). Happy Hour follows, with Rs301.7 million (US$2.5 million). Oriental Hotels is on the hook for Rs300 million (US$2.48 million).

All three had received several warnings, along with requests to make good on their financial obligations. The last was sent on March 25.

After not receiving a response from any of the operators, the DOT took the only remaining course of action it had at its disposal. On March 29, it requested that officials in the respective areas where the casinos operate shut them down.

In February, Casino Royale and Dreamland Hotel lost their casinos over unpaid dues. They owed over US$6.5 million combined. Together with the latest trio of offenders, Nepal is out $14 million.

Nepalese Economy Gets a Boost

The casino operators found themselves struggling as a result of a reduction in tourism that followed the onset of COVID-19. Travel restrictions around the globe hobbled the international travel market, which has only now begun to recover.

Nepal casinos closed in March 2020 because of the global pandemic and stayed that way for 18 months. September 2021 began to see venues reopen; however, their rebound was short-lived. In December, the omicron variant forced them to halt their operations once more.

Now, Nepal is taking another run at reinvigorating the economy. It is getting support from countries such as India and China as it looks for ways to jumpstart the economy.

India, which was once at odds with Nepal, is now proving to be a strong source of tourism. Air India is now running routes between Kolkata and Kathmandu and travel agencies are heavily pushing Nepal’s tourism benefits. The air carrier offers four flights a week and will soon be joined by IndiGo and SpiceJet.

Chinese investors are increasing their interest in Nepal. In the past nine months, according to Asia Gaming Brief, they have invested over US$94.65 million. In addition, more Chinese workers are transitioning to the country for jobs.

Many obstacles were encountered by the Nepalese government in its efforts to establish a stable, regulated casino industry. All casinos closed in 2014 when properties did not comply with new regulations and fees. They reopened in 2015 under new management, but Nepal’s tourism sector took another blow by an earthquake soon after.

Economy Continues to Struggle

As it was rebuilding after the disaster, the economy suffered additional damage because of an unofficial Indian border blockade. India is its largest source of imported goods. Now, it’s becoming a major source of tourism.

It’s too early to predict if Nepal’s casino industry will now be able to find solid ground. The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine is leading to higher fuel prices everywhere, including in the air travel sector.

As a result, airplane fuel in the country is now double what it was 10 months ago. This will impact tourists the most, as companies pass on the additional charges to them.

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