Tourism Department to auction Nepal Recreation Centre’s land

- SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu

Feb 8, 2019-

The Department of Tourism is preparing to issue an auction notice to sell property belonging to defunct casino operator Nepal Recreation Centre and recover monies owed to the government totalling Rs535 million. The company in liquidation owns around 3.5 ropanis of land and a house at Kalimati.

Nepal Recreation Centre used to operate four casinos—Casino Nepal housed at the Hotel Soaltee Crowne Plaza, Casino Anna at the Hotel Annapurna, Casino Tara at the Hotel Hyatt Regency and Casino Everest at the Hotel Everest—all of which have shut down.

Dandu Raj Ghimire, director general of the department, said that they were in the final stages of issuing a notice to auction off the land and building of Nepal Recreation Centre.

In June 2011, the government scrapped the operating licence of Nepal Recreation Centre after it failed to pay taxes and royalties owed to the government. The case went to the Supreme Court which ruled that the monies owed by Casino Nepal should be collected from Nepal Recreation Centre as it has leased the casino from the Soaltee Hotel although the licence belongs to the hotel. Rakesh Wadhwa, the fugitive owner of Nepal Recreation Centre, owes more than Rs535 million. Casino royalty irregularities have piled up to more than Rs1 billion.

The government is also preparing a draft Casino Bill in a bid to streamline the casino industry that is expected to boom in the coming years. The proposed legislation has proposed giving sweeping powers to confiscate the personal property of tax defaulting casino operators. The Casino Bill will contain a provision allowing the government to seize assets outside Nepal too, according to Tourism Ministry officials.

“The bill has proposed making the hotel liable first. As the casino licence belongs to the hotel, it should be liable, and accordingly, the new law will define it,” the ministry officials said. The bill not only allows the government to confiscate the personal property of fugitive casino operators, it can also seize their passport and bank accounts. The government can also stop utilities like water and electricity to tax defaulting operators.

The government had originally planned to create a separate Casino Act to reorganise the casino industry in order to encourage global operators to invest. However, the scheme was dumped after a Cabinet committee ordered the ministry to integrate the Casino Act into the Federal Tourism Act. According to industry insiders, the casino business is expected to boom with the opening of more than a dozen luxury hotels, and a separate act will be required to govern the industry which will generate a large number of high-paying jobs and foreign currency if managed properly.

In July 2013, the government introduced regulations to keep wayward casinos under a firmer grip. It decided to get tough as the casinos were habitually defaulting on taxes and disregarding the rule barring Nepalis from entry.

Published: 08-02-2019 13:36

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