Govt to collect dues from casinos by ‘legal means’

- POST REPORT, Kathmandu
Govt to collect dues from casinos by ‘legal means’

Apr 23, 2014-

Tourism Minister Bhim Acharya said on Wednesday that the government would collect the dues owed to it by casino operators through legal means. He added that the ministry had withstood pressure from varied quarters, and shut down the casinos for defaulting royalties and taxes in order to enforce the rule of law.

“The casinos have not only defaulted government taxes but they have also not paid salaries to their employees and rental to the hotels,” he said. “Operating gambling houses without paying taxes is complete anarchy.”  

On April 18, all the casinos in the country were declared illegal as none of them obtained new operating licences by the deadline which had been extended several times. The Home Ministry padlocked all the casinos on April 20.   

Since then, the employees of a number of casinos have been conducting protests against their owners accusing them of not paying their salaries for the last eight months.

The government had ordered the casinos to pay their outstanding royalties and obtain new operating permits as per Casino Regulation 2013. When the casinos did not budge, the government repeatedly extended the time limit. The last deadline given to the gaming houses expired on April 19.

This was the fourth time in nine months that the government had extended the deadline to gaming houses who have been defiantly continuing to operate without obtaining a licence and paying taxes.

Minister Acharya urged the operators to settle their unpaid dues if they wanted to run their businesses again. “We are ready to address the grievances of the casinos, but they have to settle the dues first,” he said. “Now casinos will be operated under government decree.”

There were 10 casinos in the country, eight in Kathmandu and two in Pokhara, employing an estimated 3,500 workers. Three of them, Casino Grand housed at the Hotel Grand in Pokhara, Casino Shangri La housed at the Shangri La Hotel Kathmandu and Casino Fulbari housed at the Fulbari Hotel in Pokhara, had closed before the government moved against them.

The government brought the new Casino Regulation into effect on July 16, 2013 in a bid to keep the wayward casinos under a firmer grip. It decided to get tough as they were habitually defaulting taxes and disregarding the rule barring Nepalis from entry.

Subsequently, the casinos went to the Supreme Court to have the new regulation cancelled. However, on March 21, the court rejected their plea ruling that the regulation had been prepared as per an earlier court order to streamline the casinos.

The casinos owe more than Rs 657.66 million in outstanding taxes and royalties to the government. The issue of casinos came to light after it was found that many of them had been operating without renewing their licences and defaulting taxes since 2006.

The government was able to recover around Rs 150 million from some casinos after the now-defunct Public Accounts Committee ordered on Nov 22, 2011 that defaulting casinos be closed down.

Published: 24-04-2014 08:42

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