It’s no billion-dollar project, but the 60-room Royal Plaza Hotel in Gangtok, Sikkim has become the first operator to open a land-based casino in India. And there are reportedly seven other operators with license applications pending.
The Casino Sikkim opened at the start of March, with two roulette tables, one table each of blackjack, baccarat and flush-an Indian game similar to 3 Card Brag, the basis for 3 Card Poker-and 10 slot machines.
For technical expertise, the license holder has retained Kishore Silwal, who runs three casinos in Nepal, according to a report in the Sikkim Express.
The only other Indian state to allow casino gaming, Goa, has only offshore casinos and electronic casinos in five-star hotels.
“It is a soft opening now,” said Naresh Subba, director of The Royal Plaza and Teesta Rangit, the company operating the casino, reports The Telegraph. “We will be investing INR30 crore to have a full-fledged casino in a bigger room in the next three months.”
In U.S. dollars, the future investment will be around $6 million. This will be on top of the initial investment of around $2 million.
The casino will provide the state treasury with INR15 million-about $300,000-over the next five years. The annual license fee of INR2 million will automatically increase by INR500,000 each of the next four years, according to Business Line.
Mah-jong tables are being added to appeal to locals, but the main target market for the casino is the upscale tourist.
Sikkim is a popular tourism destination situated at the northernmost part of India, between Nepal on the west side and Bhutan on the east. The state runs into the Himalayas and rises from 800 feet above sea level to altitudes of over 28,000 feet.
The state government, which wants to attract more high-end domestic and foreign tourists, has been working toward permitting casinos for several years. In November 2008 a provisional license was to granted Teesta Rangit.