Casino Industry in Nepal
Nepal, the ‘Mountain Kingdom’ is a landlocked central Himalayan country in South Asia. The country’s beautiful landscape attracts many international tourists. Nepal’s tourism sector is the second largest contributor to its economy.
Asia and Nepal’s first Casino – Casino Nepal (now known as Casino Mahjong) opened in 1968 at Kathmandu. The Casino industry in Nepal has faced a very tough period till 2016. This began with the Nepalese government shutting down all casinos in April 2014 for failing to comply with the new ‘Casino Regulations 2013’ and non-payment of outstanding license fees. Casinos in Nepal re-opened in September 2014, again got into trouble with the government, shut down and re-opened in early 2015. Casinos were once again hit by a devastating earthquake that rattled the country and its economy on April 25, 2015. Two casinos – Casino Anna and Casino Everest were damaged due to the quake. The earthquake in April, combined with an unofficial border blockade by India, severely affected business.
Besides, the demonetization drive by the Indian government in 2016 also affected the small electronic casinos along the border
The number of tourists visiting Nepal fell by 31.8 per cent in 2015 over the previous year. This is the highest negative change in the year-on-year (yoy) growth of tourists visiting Nepal since 1964. 2015 was a tough year for the industry but it was quick to bounce back in 2016. The number of tourists visiting Nepal registered an impressive yoy growth of 39.7 per cent. As of 2019, 1.17 million tourists have visited the country.
Silver Heritage was the first group to open the Millionaire’s Club & Casino under the new ‘Casino Regulations 2013. The two casinos in Pokhara – Pokhara Grande and Casino Fulbari closed indefinitely after the new rule came into place.
Nepal has seven functional casinos. The newly opened Casino in Tiger Palace Resort is the largest one, run by the Silver Heritage Group, the biggest player in the casino industry in Nepal.
What works in favor of Nepal? A small country with a lesser GDP, a population of just 29 million, and sandwiched between two Asian superpowers – India and China.
India has a huge population of about 1.35 billion people. Indians account for the maximum number of foreign tourists visiting Nepal and on average account for about 19 percent of the total tourists. Gambling is illegal in India except in the states of Sikkim and Goa and the Union Territory of Daman. Nepal is just over an hour of travel by air from India. So, Nepal is within the reach of such a huge population of untapped potential gamblers, of which 400 million reside along the border. Also, by 2030, India will have the world’s largest middle-class annual consumption of US$ 12.8 trillion. All these factors make Indians the No.1 customers for Nepalese casinos.
China is the world’s most populous country with a population of 1.4 billion people. Gambling is illegal in China except in the administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau. Hence, many tourists travel from China to Nepal for gambling. Overall, it takes only about two and a half hours to travel to Nepal from China. Chinese tourists form the second-highest number of foreign tourists visiting Nepal, Indians being the first. With the world’s most populated country within its reach, Nepal’s casinos stand to gain. Also, by 2030, China will have the world’s second-largest middle-class annual consumption of US$ 10 trillion after India. Macau is now among the elite casino destinations of the world such as Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and Monte Carlo. In fact, Nepal is touted as ‘the next Macau’.