The government of Nepal has instituted a formal system for taxing and regulating casinos, and is giving operators four months to comply. The government has long been confrontational with the nation’s casino industry. The casinos are generally located in hotels in the capital of in Kathmandu and cater to foreigners. Recent rules that raised the “royalty fee” by 100 percent and prevented locals from gambling have forced many of the casinos to close.
The new rules extend licensing beyond starred hotels to private companies, foreign and domestic, but require all operators to register for licensing.
“The government authorities will monitor the casinos to prevent entry of Nepali gamblers, conduct regular examination of their machines and classify them according to the quality of their service,” said Secretary of Tourism and Aviation Purna Chandra Bhatteri. “Daily record of people entering the casinos and payout records have been made mandatory. The total number of coins, machines and values of the coins also should be transparent, and the casino-holders are strictly prohibited from providing loans to the gamblers.”
A number of new fees have been imposed as well.
Start-up costs are set at 250 million Nepalese rupees for five-star hotels (US$2.6 million) and NPR150 million for four-star hotels. Operators must pay NPR20 million ($210,000) upon receiving their licenses and another NPR500,000 as a registration fee. There are also annual fees— R40 million for five-star hotels ($420,000) and R30 million for four-star—and casinos must invest 2 percent of their profits in “social development” programs.
Casino Pokhara Grande, which opened five years ago, closed last month. Kedar Sharma, president of Nepal Association of Tours and Travel Agents (NATTA) Regional Chapter, Pokhara, said the casino is an essential product for the tourism industry.
“The government should create an environment for entrepreneurs to do business,” he said.