KATHMANDU: The government has relaxed location requirements for setting up casinos and electronic gaming operation along international borders.

A Cabinet meeting on June 27 decided to allow casinos and electronic gaming houses to operate up to a distance of 3 km from the international border by amending a clause in the Casino Regulation 2013. Under the original clause, casinos and electronic gaming houses had to be at least 5 km away from the international border.

A number of operators in Kakarbhitta, Biratnagar, Birgunj, Nepalgunj and Dhangadhi had raised concern over the restrictions, according to Tourism Ministry officials.

“The government has shown flexibility by allowing casinos to operate at a distance of up to 3 km from international borders in the context of the upcoming Visit Nepal Year 2020 campaign,” said Ghanshyam Upadhyaya, spokesperson for the ministry.

Several five-star hotels are under construction at Nepal-India border points, and the investors have been raising concern over the location requirement, said Upadhyaya.

A high-level official at the Department of Tourism, which issues casino and electronic gaming licences, said the department had proposed allowing casinos to be set up at international border points with no minimum distance. “There is no logic in restricting casinos within a certain area or distance,” he said. “The key requirement is to monitor them properly.”

Apart from making the amendment to the casino regulation, the Department of Tourism has been working on preparing a new Casino Act which will come attached with the Tourism Act, said Director General Dandu Raj Ghimire.

The government moved to create the Casino Act to streamline the industry and encourage new global players to enter Nepal amid expectations of a boom in the gaming industry with the ongoing development of nearly a dozen five-star hotels across the country. He said that the draft was at its final stage. There are several provision set to streamline the casino industry, he said.

Nepal’s casinos are currently governed by the Casino Regulation 2013. The government felt it necessary to pass a separate law to bring the existing casinos into line as many of them have been operating without paying taxes and royalties on the strength of the Supreme Court’s interim orders.