Nepal casinos face eviction

Plagued by political instability and violence in the country as well as a bitter feud between partners, Nepal’s casinos, one of the kingdom’s biggest tourist lures, now face an additional peril – eviction threats by disgruntled landlords.

Casino Royale, named after Ian Fleming’s book by the same name where super spy James Bond takes on his adversary at the gaming table, is the latest to receive a stiff warning from its landlord for running behind with the rent.

The casino, ranking among the most popular of the seven casinos in Kathmandu, operates from a building on the premises of the five-star Yak and Yeti hotel owned by Indians.

Last month, it received a letter from the hotel, warning it that unless „the dues are settled by Sep 15, we shall be compelled to take stern action“.

The letter, signed by Shiva Ram Thapa, president of the corporate division, also said that while the hotel was greatly concerned at the „internal disputes and disturbances“, they should not be used as an excuse for not settling dues, which „have inordinately been delayed“.

Yet another five-star hotel, Hotel de l’Annapurna, in which the royal family has a stake, is also up in arms against its tenant, Casino Anna, for not paying its dues.

The hotel even took the unprecedented step of filing a case against the defaulting casino and the dispute has continued in an appellate court for nearly two years.

The casinos, despite their high revenue potential, have been frequently charged with non-payment of rent, licence fees, utility bills and employees‘ provident fund dues.

The mismanagement is attributed to the growing rift between the industry’s two key partners, American Richard D. Tuttle and his former protg Rakesh Wadhwa, an Indian.

The seven casinos in Kathmandu as well as an eighth one in the tourist city Pokhara are run by Nepal Recreation Center (NRC), the only company licensed to run gaming centres in Nepal.

However, Wadhwa and Tuttle, who earlier ran casinos together in Sri Lanka, are now locked into a bitter dispute over the ownership of the NRC.

The battle has gone to the courts of Hong Kong as a Hong Kong-based company holds majority shares in NRC.

Despite both the partners looking for a speedy trial, the quarrel is not likely to be resolved before a year.

The uncertainty, meanwhile, is affecting the image and operation of the casinos.

Tuttle said he has asked Nepal’s department of industries to arbitrate till the Hong Kong court gives its verdict. (IANS)