Casinos spin the wheel again as pandemic-hit Nepal lift Covid-19 barriers

Casinos in Nepal were reopening after months of Covid-led shutdown as the authorities eased health restrictions and waived taxes in a desperate gamble to revive international tourism that props up the domestic economy.

Nepal imposed a nationwide lockdown on 24 March 2020, called it off four months later but some health restrictions returned in larger cities of the country in April this year until they were completely lifted late last month.

It scrapped a seven-day quarantine rule for all foreigners, resumed issuing visas on arrival to fully-vaccinated international travellers and dropped remaining restrictions it imposed on the tourism industry since March last year.

“The casinos are (now) allowed to resume operations following health safety protocols,” Tourism Ministry spokesman Taranath Adhikari was quoted as saying in capital Kathmandu, the hub of Nepalese gaming industry.

Nepal’s Hotel, Casino and Restaurant Workers’ Union president Surya Bahadur Kunwar said a dozen casinos had reopened and others were expected to resume “in the coming days and weeks.”

The finance ministry waived an annual royalty for casinos for Nepalese fiscal year ended 30 June to help them back on their feet following the crippling shutdown.

The industry, which owes over a million Euros to the government, furloughed most of its 15,000 workers comprising croupiers, slot attendants and pit clerks during the lockdown but promises to reinstate them after the tills start to ring.