Nepal’s casinos get the axe

February 14th, 2011 - 2:07 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Feb 14 (IANS) After months of a grim battle between Nepal’s communist-led government and the republic’s casinos, where an Indian businessman held major stakes, the death knell finally sounded for the gaming industry with revenue authorities seeking to scrap the licence of eight of the 10 casinos.After a 35-day deadline slapped by a parliamentary committee on the casinos to clear their dues to the state, which ran into millions of rupees, expired Friday, the Department of Revenue Investigation Sunday asked the tourism ministry to revoke the licences of the eight defaulting casinos.

The casinos that are set to lose their licence are Casino Nepal, the oldest in South Asia, Casino Rad, Venus, Grande, Royale, Anna, Shangri-la and Fulbari.

Two of these are in Pokhara city - Casino Grande and Casino Fulbari -while the remaining six are concentrated in Kathmandu.

Only two casinos - Casino Tara and Everest - cleared their dues after the Public Accounts Committee of parliament last month warned that the defaulters were liable to lose their licence.

The remaining eight collectively owe the state over NRS 355 million.

Originally, most of the casinos in the capital were run by Nepal Recreation Center that had a virtual monopoly over the industry. A businessman now believed to be based in New Delhi, Rakesh Wadhwa, was its managing director.

Casino Nepal and Anna, two of the casinos that still remain under NRC, failed to heed the call to pay their dues while the others paid some of the amount and asked for more time.

The situation has become complicated with some of the hotels from where the casinos were operating throwing out NRC for being behind with rent and announcing their decision to run the casinos on their own.

One of them, Casino Royale, from where Charles Sobhraj was arrested in a sensational turn of events in 2003, was wrested away from Wadhwa by Raj Bahadur Singh, son-in-law of deposed king Gyanendra.

Though Singh’s company paid its dues, the revenue authorities have still sought to revoke its licence as the original owner NRC has not paid up its dues.

The screws tightened on the casino industry - that employs over 7,000 people - after a tussle between the ruling communist party and the Maoists for control of the trade unions.

To eradicate the Maoist stronghold on the casinos, the government stepped up raids on the casinos, which are obligated by law to bar admission to Nepalis but had been allowing them on the sly as the number of Indian gamblers dipped.

The parliamentary committee has also directed the government to relocate the Kathmandu casinos outside the capital, saying they created a law and order problem.

Wadhwa fled Nepal after a warrant was issued for his arrest and is now believed to be trying to sell his stake to two Indian investors.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

Related Stories

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Business |

Subscribe