Government lowers casino royalty fee to Rs 30m

Kathmandu
Government lowers casino royalty fee to Rs 30m

Jul 19, 2014-

The Financial Bill 2014-15 has slashed the royalty amount charged to casinos to Rs 30 million from Rs 40 million. The fee for electronic gaming (mini-casino) has been reduced to Rs 20 billion from Rs 30 million.

The government slashed the royalty following casino operators’ complaints that the fee enforced by the Casino Regulation 2013 was too high to run their business.

The government had for the first time enforced the regulation on July 16 last year, introducing strict policy measures, to clamp down on casinos habitually defaulting taxes and disregarding rules that bar Nepalis entry to the gaming houses.

On April 19, all the casinos in Nepal were declared illegal as none of them obtained new operating licences by the deadline (April 18). The government had ordered the casinos to pay their outstanding royalty dues and obtain new operating permits as per the regulation. An estimated 3,500 employees were out of their jobs after 10 casinos—eight in Kathmandu and two in Pokhara—were told to shut down. The financial bill has also provisioned that a single operator cannot run more than one casino. For electronic gaming, a licence holder can operate such business at four places.

The bill says casino operators have to pay the royalty to the Tourism Ministry by within two months after the beginning of the fiscal year. If an operator fails to pay the fee by the deadline and pays within the next three months, the government will charge 15 percent penalty. And, if the operator fails to pay the fee within the extended deadline, an additional 15 percent (combined 30 percent) penalty will be charged.

The government has decided to waive off 25 percent of the outstanding royalty fees and other charges for casinos that were closed by mid-October 2013, and have officially informed the Tourism Ministry about their statuses, and those that have paid royalty amount until mid-October 2014, according to the financial bill.

For casinos that were closed by mid-May 2014 and have officially informed the ministry about their statuses, the government has decided to waive off 75 percent of the royalty fee and other charges levied on them.

“As the government is positive on reopening the casinos and operate them legally, we are discussing various measures to make the new regulation flexible,” said Madhusudan Burlakoti, chief of the ministry’s Industry Division, which issues casino operating licences. Casino operators have also been asking the government to adopt flexibility on some of the clauses in the regulation.

Besides lobbying for reducing the royalty amount, which was doubled by the regulation, the casino operators have also raised concerns about the clauses restricting casinos and electronic gaming houses from operating within a distance of 5km distance from international borders.

Other concerns include allowing mini casinos to operate only inside four-star properties, giving customers their winnings only after deducting windfall tax and keeping identity details or visual records of gamblers for at least six months. “We are optimistic the government will reduce the fee for obtaining casino licence along with relaxing other stringent measures enforced by the regulation,” said a casino operator. As per the new regulation, casino operators have to pay Rs 20 million to renew their licence.

Casinos will resume: Mahat

Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat on Saturday said all closed casinos will be brought back into operation soon. He said the government is holding talks with casino operators, workers’ unions and other stakeholders to bring back the casinos into operation, realising that “protecting jobs is as important as creating them”. Speaking at the 4th UNI Nepal Liaison Council National Conference in Kathmandu, Mahat said it is the government’s responsibility to ensure jobs to its people and see businesses and industries flourishing.

Gilt allowed to register at CRO

The Tourism Ministry has given approval to Gilt International to register with the Company Registrar Office for the purpose of operating a casino in Nepal. The ministry needs to approve an operator’s plan prior to registering at the office. Gilt has expressed interest in operating Casino Royale housed at Yak and Yeti hotel.

Published: 20-07-2014 09:14

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