As Nepal’s casinos return from Covid hibernation, the roulette wheels are once again rolling on the tables of their establishments.
The government has permitted the reopening of closed gaming establishments after an almost two-and-a-half-year hiatus, and it has also waived the yearly royalty charge for the most recent fiscal year, which concluded in mid-July.
Since the implementation of anti-corona measures in mid-March 2020, all casinos and mini-casinos have remained closed to the public.
On March 10, 2020, the government announced that it would no longer issue on-arrival tourist visas to visitors from China, Japan, Italy, Iran, and South Korea, all of whom had been adversely affected by Covid-19.
In order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Nepal implemented a complete lockdown on March 24. The whole population was told to remain indoors during this time.
In accordance with the decision of the Kathmandu district administration office on September 1 to legalise commercial and social activities in accordance with health safety norms, Taranath Adhikari, spokeswoman for the Tourism Ministry, announced that the casinos were allowed to restart operations.
Nepal said last week that the final remaining restrictions on tourism had been lifted. On September 23, the government abolished the seven-day quarantine restriction and restarted the issuance of on-arrival visas to all vaccinated foreign visitors in an effort to revive the country’s virus-ravaged tourism economy.
Visitors to Nepal should have taken their last dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at least 14 full days previous to their entry into the country. Those who have not been vaccinated or have only been partially vaccinated will not be eligible for on-arrival visas. They must obtain entry permits from Nepali diplomatic offices before entering the country, and they must also spend 10 days in quarantine in hotels that have been approved by the government.
Both travel industry entrepreneurs and casino operators have praised the government’s decision to decriminalise gaming establishments.
Surya Bahadur Kunwar, president of the Nepal Independent Hotel, Casino & Restaurant Workers’ Union, said that more than half a dozen casinos have already opened their doors to players, including the Casino Mahjong located at the Hotel Soaltee, the Casino Pride located at the Annapurna Hotel, the Casino Pride located at the Hyatt Regency, and the Deltin Casino located at the Kathmandu Marriott Hotel (Central Committee). It is being reported that more casinos are progressively reopening.
All casinos, on the other hand, have failed to renew their operating permits for the current fiscal year by paying the applicable royalty.
More than 15,000 people worked in the casino business during the shutdown. “Despite the fact that the hotels were closed, they continued to pay their employees the minimal salary.” Despite the fact that the casinos did not fire their staff, they did not pay them any salaries. We hope that the industry will rebound and that people will be able to reclaim their positions.”
Following the second lockdown, Parbat Giri, an official at the Department of Tourism who is in charge of overseeing the country’s casinos, stated that a number of casinos had applied to reopen as soon as the second lockdown was removed.
Following a spike in Covid-19 cases in Nepal, the government issued a second stay-at-home order on April 29. The country is now seeing a daily infection rate that is approaching 10,000.
Nepal recorded 892 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours on Wednesday, bringing the total number of coronavirus infections in the country to 794,163. A total of 3,889 antigen tests were performed, and 265 persons tested positive, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
A number of casinos have also asked to have their annual operating permits renewed, according to Giri. “We will begin renewing their permits as soon as we receive approval from the Finance Ministry in accordance with the Financial Act.”
The yearly royalty charge for the fiscal year 2021-22 has been established at Rs40 million by the Financial Act of India. A total of Rs425 million in casino royalty fees has been collected by the government every year since 2008.
According to department officials, the Finance Ministry reduced the yearly royalty charge for the last fiscal year 2020-21 as a result of the closure of all casinos, which was recommended by the department.
According to the Financial Act, the annual royalty fee will be waived only for those casinos that have been paying the fee on a regular basis until 2019-20, and that do not owe any tax debts to the United States government.
The country’s casinos owe the government a total of more than Rs1.57 billion in unpaid taxes and fees, according to official figures.
On March 24, the Kumari Chowk Office, which reviews government accounts as part of the Office of the Auditor General, sent a formal letter to the ministries of the federal, provincial, and local governments requesting assistance in recovering the outstanding debts that had accumulated over a number of years prior.
The names of the debtors and their ancestors going back two generations had also been made public by the collection agency.
As stated in the notice, Rakesh Wadhwa, the fugitive owner of the Nepal Recreation Center, owes the largest sum of Rs793.90 million, which is the biggest amount owed. A house in Kalimati, as well as land worth approximately 3.5 ropanis, are owned by the corporation.
A total of four casinos, Casino Nepal (located at the Hotel Soaltee Crowne Plaza), Casino Anna (located at the Hotel Annapurna), Casino Tara (located at the Hotel Hyatt Regency), and Casino Everest (located at the Hotel Everest) were previously operated by Nepal Recreation Centre, but all have since closed their doors.
Following the failure of Nepal Recreation Centre to pay taxes and royalties due to the government, the government revoked the organization’s operating licence in June of 2011.
Currently, Piyush Bahadur Amatya, chairman of The Fulbari Resort & Spa, owes Rs366 million in unpaid taxes and other fees.
R176.20 million is owed by Radhe Shyam Saraf, the chairman of the Hotel Yak & Yeti, which contains Casino Royale, to the government.
There are two people who owe money to the government: Surendra Bahadur Singh, who runs a chain of micro casinos under the name Happy Hour and RD Tuttle, who founded Nepal’s first modern casino, under the Nepal Recreation Center, and owes Rs1.19 million.
When the government decided to shut down all casinos that did not comply with the Casino Regulation 2013 and to revoke the licences of those that did not pay their royalties on time, it was in April of 2014.
These casinos and small casinos, on the other hand, continue to function as a result of the Supreme Court’s interim decision, which permits them to continue to operate.
As stated by department representatives, while the temporary order allows gaming establishments to continue operating under the existing regulations, they are still legally compelled to pay the annual royalty set by the Finance Act.
According to the agency, around eight to nine casinos have been in compliance with the Casino Regulation 2013 and have been paying their royalties and other payments on a timely basis in accordance with the regulations since 2013.