Designed solely to keep Indian customers in mind, many of these casinos are now nearing permanent shutdown in the midst of the apprehension of further Indian-Nepal ties.
India-Nepal border tensions coupled with the COVID-19 outbreak have taken a toll on casino sector in border areas of Nepal.
Mahendra Nagar area of Bhimdatta Municipality of Kanchanpur District is a ‘Casino Hub’ where Nepalese residents are now allowed to enter casinos catering exclusively to foreigners, particularly Indians.
Parmanand Bhandari, a hotelier from Mahendra Nagar town said, “Hotels, casinos and everything else related to tourism is shut down due to Covid epidemic. Every season we have big groups coming from India, mostly Uttarakhand but this year has been proved a dud.”
Mahendra Nagar along with Champawat, Nainital, Udham Singh Nagar, Bareilly, Moradabad and Rampur areas formed their own small universe of business and leisure activities, the New Indian Express reported.
An owner of a casino, on the condition of anonymity, revealing the details said, “Our casinos thrived only because of Indian customers. We have procured license and cater exclusively to Indian customers. Now due to Covid and India-Nepal border tensions, we don’t see revival of our business which ran well. It was down only in monsoon times due to rough terrain and floods when Indians did not travel much.”
Those who involved in running the casino business said that in peak season of Diwali and New Year week, the business touched Rs 10 Crore a day which is a lot.
Indians often ventured into the region for casino experiences, dingy beer bars and safari in Shuklaphata National Park, abundance of wildlife such as tigers, leopards and elephants.
Lakshman Tiwari, a local resident from Mahendra Nagar, the town which I named after late King Mahendra of Nepal said, “Indian people have been coming to our town since decades. Our people also venture to India for work and Indian also come here for work and leisure both.”
Kamal Jagati, a resident of Nainital district who has been frequenting Mahendra Nagar for over two decades now said, “Before the era of e-commerce website, it was Mahendra Nahar, hardly 4-5 hours drive from Nainital which was hub for low price foreign products such as garments, shoes and other items. With advent of internet and e-commerce, the area lost its importance as cheap market for foreign goods and adapted to casino business for Indians and tourism.”
The situation across the Himalayan nation is witnessing normalcy, as the route of Mt. Everest are also opened to create a balance in the economy through tourism.
Intekhab Alam, another resident of Nainital who was a part of tourism delegation said, “Last year a delegation from Kanchanpur arrived in Nainital and on their invitation we went there. They focused a lot on tourism. They gave us a tour of Shuklaphata National Park, their casinos exclusively for Indians and beer bars. So, the focus has shifted from selling items to promoting the place for tourism.”

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