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Nepal Orders Casinos Closed

Push has come to shove in the small Himalaya mountain nation of Nepal, where the government has ordered the country’s 10 foreigners-only casinos to close for non-payment of back royalties and fees. The casinos say they can’t afford a recent fee increase.

The Nepal government has declared the country’s 10 casinos illegal and ordered them closed for failing to pay past-due royalties and obtain new licenses.

“The ministry didn’t renew licenses of the ten casinos operating in the premises of different five-star hotels in the country as some didn’t apply for renewal within the given time-frame and applications of others were filed without fulfilling due process,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation said.

The decision was taken after several deadlines to pay up were extended. It affects eight foreigners-only casinos in Kathmandu and two in Pokhara, all operating in tourist hotels. About 4,000 jobs could be affected, according to news reports.

The casinos owe the government a total of 1.07 billion Nepalese rupees (US$11 million) dating back to 2005-2006, according to the ministry, which also complains the casinos do not obey regulations prohibiting Nepalese nationals from entering the venues.

The government recently approved new rules reinforcing the ban and introducing mandatory licensing. The new measure also raises the annual royalty fee to 40 million rupees, which the casinos have said they cannot afford to pay and remain profitable. Three closed last year.