The Department of Industry has approved foreign direct investment of Goa-based casino operator Goa Costal Resorts and Recreational Pvt Ltd.
The company will operate a gaming house at Hyatt Hotel under the “Casino Pride” brand in a joint-venture with Nepal-based Entertainment and Recreational Pvt Ltd.
The department had approved the company’s Rs 250-million investment proposal on February 25. The Nepali partner has a 15 percent stake in the joint venture.
“We have registered a company under the name of ‘Casino Pride’, which is scheduled to come into operation by one and a half month,” said one of the promoters of the company. The company is in the process of applying with the tourism department for the casino operating permit.
Tulasi Gautam, director general of the tourism department, said the company has been registered at the Department of Industry, but is yet to apply with the tourism department for the permit. “After evaluating the company’s application, we will issue the operating permit.”
If the permit is issued, Goa Costal will be the third company to operate a gaming house under the new Casino Regulation after Silver Heritage and Casino Mahjong.
On February 3, Hong Kong-based Silver Heritage started operating The Millionaire’s Club & Casino at Shangri La Hotel. The boutique casino offers 22 live gaming tables and 40 electronic gaming machines. Silver Heritage plans to invest more than Rs 1 billion in the company.
Earlier, Malaysia-based Star Management had operated Casino Shangri-La, but was forced to permanently shut down the gaming house due to labour unrest. Star had been operating the casino under a lease agreement with the hotel since December 2010.
As for Casino Mahjong housed at Soaltee hotel, its general manager Rohit Thapa said: “We are preparing to resume the operation soon.”
According to Gautam, a number of new foreign and Nepali operators are willing to reopen casinos under the new regulation enforced on July 16, 2013.
Nepal’s casino industry is showing signs of recovery after a disastrous 2014 when all gaming houses were shut down due to their failure to comply with the new regulation.
Government officials said Everest Casino, housed at Hotel Everest is also preparing to reopen. The tourism department has asked them to apply for new operating permits.
Nepal’s casinos were beaten up by the stringent new regulations, under which the gaming house are required to have a paid-up capital of at least Rs 250 million.
Based on the regulation, the Financial Bill 2013-14 had doubled the royalty amount that casinos have to pay to the government.
On April 19, 2014, all the casinos were declared illegal as none of them obtained new operating licences under the new regulation. There were 10 casinos in the country, eight in Kathmandu and two in Pokhara, employing an estimated 3,500 workers.
Travel trade entrepreneurs said Indian tourist inflow to Nepal has declined due to the closure of the gaming houses.
“The government has recognised casino as an important product to attract tourists and creating jobs,” said Gautam.