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Nepal's casino industry caught in war with Govt

world Updated: Nov 02, 2008 19:48 IST
Anirban Roy
Anirban Roy
Hindustan Times

The Roulette wheel, which once used to be the money-spinning machine in Nepal, is now stressed to rotate as thousands of employees are now caught in a war with the government.

Thousands of casino employees on Sunday staged protests in downtown Kathmandu demanding immediate release of a senior official of one of the casinos. They accused Home Minister Bamdev Gautam of disquieting the casino business in Nepal.

Nepal Police on Saturday had arrested Ram Krishna Chakradhar, the general manager of Casino Anna in Kathmandu for interrogation. Operations in most of the casinos remained affected because of the agitation.

"The government is now all out to destroy the casino industry," Rajen Chetri, one of the agitating employees told Hindustan Times on Sunday claiming that the government will be responsible for the losses.

The downtown areas in Kathmandu were tense on Sunday following clash between the protestors and the police personnel. Shops remained closed and vehicular movements were also badly affected in the city.

The casino employees have been protesting since the police raided Casino Anna at around midnight on October 25 on the suspicion that Nepali nationals were engaged in gambling.

As per the law, Nepali citizens are not allowed to gamble in the nine casinos in the country. However, Gautam alleged that a large section of the gamblers in the casinos are Nepali citizens.

The agitated casino employees on October 26 had also submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Prachanda to protect them from the Home Minister's aggressive campaign.

During the last three decades, Nepal has been the gambling capital of South Asia. In addition to the snow-capped mountains, the casinos have been a major attraction for most of the tourists.

The feud between the casino employees and the government is likely to cause a serious threat to the survival of the gambling industry in Nepal, which has been a major revenue earner for the Himalayan nation.

Moreover, the casino boom in Macau has greatly affected Nepal's money-spinning industry, which has been one of the major attractions for the tourists from India.

The casino boom in Macau has resulted in a drop of Nepal's gambling business by over 75 per cent during the last couple of years.