Casino Wars Continue To Wage In Nepal

The Nepalese casino industry is presently facing unprecedented police action after being accused of allowing local people to gamble inside their premises.
Nepal’s first casino opened in 1968 and is the oldest in the whole of South Asia. Although gambling is illegalin the landlocked country, the capital Kathmandu has eight special government licenced casino hotels which are supposed to enforce the 42 year old law of only allowing foreign customers to gamble.
As strange as it seems, 28 locals were arrested recently during the festival period in Nepal for breaking the gambling law and could be facing a fine of around 200 Nepalese Rupees (US$2.8) for a first time offence, a short period of imprisonment for a second offence and up to a year in jail if found guilty for a third time.
The police claim that such strict enforcement of the draconian rules are necessary in order to curb the increase in violent crime caused by desperate gamblers turning to robberies in order to pay off their gambling debts.
However, the police’s line of reasoning does not ring true with all the gaming operators, with one unnamed senior official at Casino Rad claiming that Nepal’s gambling laws are discriminatory. As he explains:
“In India, one has to be above 18. In Malaysia, there is a restriction on Muslims on religious grounds as gambling is considered against Islam. In some countries, you have to be a tax-payer. But none puts a blanket ban on its own nationals, like Nepal.”
Nepal’s casino industry is one of the biggest employers in the country, but now gaming operators are claiming the volume of arrests will have a detrimental affect on attracting their prime tourist from India and Bangladesh.
The Nepal Recreation Centre (NRC) is responsible for operating five of Kathmandu’s eight casinos, and as its director Shalini Wadhwa comments:
“‘We are in the service industry…Nepal will celebrate 2011 as tourism year planning to bring in one million tourists. We were planning night packages like we had in Colombo to attract tourists. We wish we knew what the government is actually thinking.”

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