Tiger Palace sale delayed, company receives second court injunction

Australian Stock Exchange listed Silver Heritage Group, the parent company of the Tiger Palace Casino Resort in Bhairahawa, Nepal has announced that a local court has issued a second interim ex parte injunction against two of its Nepal units. The injunction is related to land at the Tiger Palace Resort.

Last month, a local court in Rupandehi, Nepal had issued its first interim injunction against the resort, restraining Silver Heritage’s local Nepal subsidiary from selling or building anything on the plot where Tiger Palace Resort, Bhairawaha stands, pending a full verdict on a writ petition alleging encroachment on public land.

Silver Heritage said it is currently seeking legal advice on the effect and consequences of the injunction. 

Silver Heritage further informed that the US$33.9 million conditional sale offer to purchase Tiger Palace Resort that it had received from one non-resident Nepali, Indra Bahadur Thapa, represented by I. Hugh Holmes of Hotel Investment Partners Limited, could not be completed due to circumstances beyond the control of both the buyer and seller.

The company said it has not yet received the US$3 million that was to be deposited Thapa in an escrow account by 15th August, 2019 for the transaction to proceed. However, the gaming group added that it had extended the deadline to receive the US$3 million deposit to 10th September, 2019.

The embattled gaming company also announced that its Chief Financial Officer Ben Watiwat has resigned effective 6th September, 2019 to pursue other opportunities and will be replaced by existing members of its finance team and the company’s former CFO Martin Wright, who would be rejoining on a consultancy basis.

The company also effected a major management change by appointing Amy Bunnell as country head Nepal effective 26th August, 2019.

Bunnell earlier served as Silver Heritage’s general manager in Nepal for the past three months and has extensive experience in building and growing businesses in the Asia Pacific, the company noted in its regulatory filing.


Eventus International to host Gaming & Tourism conference in Nepal in September 2019

After the release of the schedule of a flagship gaming focused event ‘SPiCE’ in Goa in February 2019, Hong Kong-based specialist event management company, Eventus International, has announced a first of its kind tourism and gaming focused event at the Tiger Palace integrated casino and resort in Bhairahawa, Nepal, near the India border.

The two-day event, to be held on 24th and 25th September 2019, is branded as ‘Gaming, Entertainment and Tourism Summit’ (GETS) and will be supported by Silver Heritage Group, the Hong Kong-headquartered and Australian Securities Exchange listed hotel resort and gaming company, which owns and operates Tiger Palace Resort, as well as by the Ministry of Tourism of Nepal and the Nepal Tourism Board.

The will delve into tourism and tourism-related investment opportunities in Nepal, and will discuss the experience of foreign investors (FDI) and other organisations in the Himalayan nation across multiple sectors. The summit will also discuss future opportunities and current experiences in the booming casino industry across South Asia, including Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka.

Eventus International will be bringing together leading experts in tourism, investment, gaming, regulation, infrastructure and technology, to discuss thought-provoking topics that affect the gaming, entertainment and tourism industries in the South Asian region.

Commenting on the announcement of GETS, Yudi Soetjiptadi, Managing Director at Eventus International said; “It is our honour and privilege to present the first-ever summit of this kind held in Nepal. We hope to bring together all stakeholders associated with the gaming and tourism sector in Nepal and the wider the South Asian industry and to help all participants to understand the unique opportunities available in one of the most rapidly emerging investment destinations, Nepal, as well as neighbouring India.

We are delighted to be hosting the event at the beautiful Tiger Palace Resort in Nepal, which is South Asia’s first Integrated Resort and strategically located near the Indian-Nepal border, between two UNESCO World Heritage Sites – those of Lumbini and Chitwan.”

Mike Bolsover, CEO of Silver Heritage Group, who is an Advisor to GETS 2019 said, “Eventus International is an experienced group who always organise and execute first-class events, and having been to many as a delegate and a speaker we are honoured to have Tiger Palace Resort, and Nepal, as the destination and host for GETS 2019.”

Jay Sayta, Advisor to GETS 2019 added, “ Nepal has been fast emerging as a popular tourism and entertainment destination in Asia, with companies from India, Sri Lanka and China interested in investing in making massive investments in the sector. Eventus International’s decision to hold a structured dialogue on the massive tourism potential and opportunities in the casino and entertainment industries in the region is a timely and welcome step.”

Business Gaming

Silver Heritage Group acquires land in eastern Nepal for second casino resort

Australia-listed casino operator Silver Heritage Group has announced that it has purchased 7.45 hectares (around 18.4 acres) of land in the Jhapa district of eastern Nepal for its second casino-resort in the Himalayan state, which will be named ‘Tiger Palace Resort-Jhapa’.

According to a regulatory filing to the Australian stock exchange, the company noted that it had initially announced in July 2016 to purchase 11.5 hectares of land in Jhapa and made an initial deposit of Nepalese Rupees 104.9 million (US$946,000) in March 2015, and a further deposit of Nepalease Rupees 214.4 million in August 2016.

However, the company ran into some trouble funding the remaining purchase price, leading to the agreement to purchase the land expiring on March 31, 2018 and the deposits being forfeited.

The company however stated that after working closely with the vendor in the past few months, it has now completed the acquisition of a reduced parcel of land – measuring at 7.45 hectares, a size similar to that used at its Tiger Palace Resort Bhairahawa project, near Gorakhpur on the Nepal side of the Indo-Nepal border.

The total purchase price including fees and taxes was US$3.2 million. Silver Heritage also confirmed that it was able to acquire the land without any additional funds from the group, and that the purchase has reduced its outstanding liabilities by more than US$536,000.

The company also announced its intention of ramping up operations at the Tiger Palace Bhairahawa resort which is making steady progress in increasing footfalls and revenues.


Silver Heritage Group appoints Australian entrepreneur as new chairman, directors agree to pay cut

Weeks after the resignation of its non-executive chairman David Green, Silver Heritage Group has announced that entrepreneur and investor James Spenceley will be the new non-executive chairman of the company with immediate effect.

Spenceley is a well-regarded entrepreneur in Australia and is the founder of Vocus Communication Ltd., Australia’s fourth largest telecommunications company. He also has interests in other sectors such as financial services, farming and sports.

The company also informed the Australian stock exchange that its current three non-executive directors ‘have agreed to waive half of their fees until the end of 2018.’

The Australia-listed company added that it expects aggregate annualized savings of Australian $375,000 (US$ 283,072) due ‘to these waivers, as well as the reduction from four independent non-executive directors to three.’

Managing Director and CEO for Silver Heritage Group, Mike Bolsover said that Spenceley is a “great addition” to its board and that after multiple visits to both Nepal and to Tiger Palace since its opening last year, “hits the ground running.”

In an investor presentation to its shareholders, Bolsover said that he was striving to take the company to profitability and noted that he was trying to bring in several cost control and cost reduction initiatives. He added that April 2018 was breakeven for the company as a whole and its Bhairahawa based Tiger Palace casino and resort would be breaking even by the third quarter of 2018.


One more Silver Heritage Group Director resigns

Days after Silver Heritage Group Chairman David Green announced that he was resigning from the board of the company with immediate effect due to personal reasons and to focus on his business interests, yet another director has quit the company.

Non-executive director Richard Barker announced that he was resigning from the company with immediate effect ‘to enable him to focus on other business interests.’

The announcement of the resignation, made by the company to the Australian Stock Exchange also informed the shareholders that Barker will not be standing for re-election to the board at the company’s Annual General Meeting (AGM). The company further stated that the resolution pertaining to Barker’s re-election will be withdrawn from the AGM’s agenda. Silver Heritage’s AGM is scheduled to be held on 25th May.

The Board of Director of Silver Heritage thanked Barker for his inputs and efforts during his tenure as a director. Barker is described on Silver Heritage’s website as an executive ‘specialised in mergers and acquisitions, capital raisings and corporate financial advice’.

With Barker and Green’s resignation, there are only three directors left on the board of the Australian Stock Exchange listed company.

Mike Bolsover continues to be the company’s Managing Director and CEO.  Apart from Bolsover, the company has two independent directors, Matthew Hunter and Robert Benussi.  Hunter functions as the company’s interim CEO after Green’s resignation.

In August 2017, company co-founder Tim Shepherd resigned from the board of the company but as of now he is still supporting the company as an advisor. The company is also embroiled in litigation with its local Nepalese partner Rajendra Bajgain, following allegations that the company’s foreign employees did not obtain proper visas before starting work at the flagship Tiger Palace resort in Bhairahawa.

The series of setbacks and resignations in the company raises concerns about whether the casino operator will be able to smoothly carry out its business in Nepal and Vietnam.


Silver Heritage starts casino operations in Tiger Palace resort

Hong Kong-based and Australian stock exchange listed Silver Heritage Group announced the launch of casino operations at its Tiger Palace integrated resort last week.

In  a regulatory filing to the stock exchange, Silver Heritage Group announced on 28th December, 2017 that its subsidiary, SHL Management Services (KTM) Pvt. Ltd.  has been issued a license for casino operations at the Tiger Palace Resort by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation of Nepal.

The company added that the Tiger Palace resort and casino is now fully operational and noted that its first major event was scheduled on New Year’s eve, i.e. on 31st December, 2017.

Silver Heritage had made an announcement to the stock exchange on 21st December, 2017 that in accordance with the Nepal casino regulations, it had to pay an “initial casino licence fee of NPR20 million (approximately US$194,000), and the casino royalty fee of NPR30 million (approximately US$291,000) for the Nepal fiscal year, which runs from mid-July to mid-July the following year”, in order to receive the casino licence.

The integrated resort, touted to be one of South Asia’s largest casino resorts is strategically located in the Bhairahawa area of Nepal, near the India border. The resort aims to attract patrons from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, West Bengal, Bangladesh and China, which they believe is an ‘untapped market’ with huge potential.

A soft launch of the resort’s hotel was held on 20th September and the launch of the casino operations, which was scheduled in the last week of November, was delayed due to lack of regulatory approval from Nepalese authorities.

Speaking to GGRAsia, Mike Bolsover, managing director and chief executive of Silver Heritage, said, “The chairman and board of directors of Silver Heritage and I are extraordinarily grateful to everyone who helped bring this vision to life, including the committed and supportive shareholders in Silver Heritage, the citizens and the government of Nepal, and we are humbled by the dedication and support of all of those people involved in designing, developing, building, completing, and finally opening Tiger Palace Resort Bhairahawa.”

He further added: “The future is indeed bright for the company and for the people of Nepal and tourism in this country.”


Feature: Silver Heritage CEO Mike Bolsover discusses the prospects of the upcoming Tiger Palace Resort & Casino

Exclusive Silver Heritage Group, an Australian Securities Exchange listed hospitality company, is in the process of developing one of the largest Integrated Resorts in South Asia –  Tiger Palace Resort Bhairahawa.

Located in Bhairahawa in Southern Nepal near the India border, Tiger Palace is expected to open its hotel at the end of September and to commence gaming operations in November 2017, and is touted as a game-changer which will offer a unique five-star gaming and hospitality experience. The resort is nestled between two UNESCO Word Heritage Sites on the Terai close to the foothills of the Himalayas.

In this exclusive interview, Mike Bolsover, the CEO and Managing Director of Silver Heritage Group gives details about the project, its unique location and how it will change South Asia’s hospitality and entertainment sector.

Q. Nepal as a jurisdiction went through very tough times. In 2014, all casinos were shut down for non-payment of taxes and license (royalty) fees. The country also faced a devastating earthquake in 2015 and there has been political turmoil and multiple changes in governments in the recent past. Despite all this, why did Silver Heritage choose Nepal as the location for its Tiger Palace project?

Mike Bolsover (MB): The key driver of integrated resort earnings, certainly the casino and hospitality element, is proximity.

On its southern low-lying border (average elevation approximately 100 mts above sea level) Nepal has an proximate population of over 400 million citizens – those include inhabitants of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal. Domestic air travel within India brings the other 900 million citizens within a days’ reach too. There are no geographic barriers (such as rivers or mountains) and no travel restrictions for Indians (such as visas or travel permits).

The only place one can play casino table games in India is Goa (and to a certain extent in Sikkim). Goa is over 2,000km from Tiger Palace Resort Bhairahawa, and even more so from Kathmandu. Our resort is closer to Delhi and Kolkata too for example (than Goa) and certainly closer to Thailand and China.

Major drivers of tourism are unique propositions and access and infrastructure including airlift. We have all three in Bhairahawa with fantastic roads in India (golden quadrilateral and East-West highway), a domestic airport 15 minutes drive away which will become Nepal’s 2nd international airport in less than 12 months time, and unique propositions in Lumbini – the birthplace of lord Buddha and a UNESCO world heritage site only 30 mins drive away, and Everest of course to the North. Furthermore Chitwan with its tigers and elephant and rhino is just 140 km from the resort to the East.

So if you want a large proximate market, and a fantastic pre-existing tourism proposition, then where better in the world than Nepal?

Silver Heritage have been in Nepal since 2011, and I myself first travelled to Nepal in 2003 to go trekking, a trip when I had the misfortune of being stuck in the Upper Mustang section of the Annapurna Circuit to the North of Pokhara, in Jomsom. There was some fighting between the Maoists and the Nepal Police at the time and the roads were blocked. We were assisted by our now local partner and my good friend Rajendra Bajgain as he was able to source an army helicopter to take us from Jomsom to Pokhara, flying over the skirmishes, and off to Kathmandu. That was almost 15 years ago.

The country has moved on significantly since then, much like Sri Lanka post the Tamil Tigers conflict, and it is very much a functioning multi-party democracy in Nepal at present with Nepali Congress, UPN-UML, and the Maoists effectively sharing the leadership since the new Constitution in 2015. As was agreed at the Nepal Investment Summit in March 2017, whilst single party stability is not guaranteed, predictability of Government change is.  And so with a long history in Nepal we feel that we can navigate the nuances of the Nepali political situation. It may frustrate business from time to time but it certainly doesn’t prevent it.

At their invitation, we were able to assist the government in its desire to develop a framework to properly regulate the casino industry, an industry which has been present in Nepal for over 50 years, and to attract foreign direct investment. The new regulations, known as the Casino Rules 2070, was published in the Gazette in July 2013. Eventually (in early 2014) the government was able to close all the existing casinos and “re-set” the industry with a view to long term sustainable growth of the casino, tourism, and integrated resort industry in Nepal, and as part of that process they closed all existing casinos pending settlement of their back-taxes and royalties.

Silver Heritage was the first company to apply for and be awarded a casino licence under the new regulations. This was in February 2015, when we opened The Millionaire’s Club and Casino at the 5-star Shangri-La Hotel in Lazimpat, Kathmandu. Over the course of 2015, two other operators opened casinos at 5-star hotels in the capital.

Q. How have the Nepalese politicians, bureaucrats and people in general reacted to the Tiger Palace project? Are they excited or is there some opposition to the idea of casinos?

MB: They are very supportive because we have set a new standard and we are the first group to build an large scale hotel resort facility in which to house a casino. The US$51.8m we are spending is also the largest foreign investment in the tourism industry at present. We will soon employ well over 1,000 Nepalis which will put us in the top tier of employers in the country, and our business in the Shangri-La has to date paid almost US$2 million in taxes and fees to the Government of Nepal (casino royalties, licence fees and income tax).

Q. Can you give some more clarity on the licensing conditions for the casino – time period of validity, recurring and non-recurring fees? Also could you throw some colour on the tax rate for the casino revenues?

MB: The Casino Rules 2070 state that casino royalties (gaming taxes) of US$400,000 are payable per annum, and license fees are US$100,000 per annum (US$200,000 in year one) per property. Corporate tax is 25% but there are a series of incentives which make the effective tax rate much lower.

Q. The fact that Tiger Palace is located so close to the India border indicates that the North & East India audience will be the real market for the resort. Given this, why not start a project in Nepal instead of India? Are you looking at opportunities in India?

MB: We are in Nepal. Foreign companies are not allowed to own equity in Indian casino ventures. We also expect international visitors from China, Korea, and the rest of Asia as we are situated in such a fantastic location with unique tourist experiences.

The opening of the International facilities including customs and immigration at Gautam Buddha airport in Bhairahawa, just 15 minutes from the resort by 2018 would mean that we can soon draw customers from further afield who could access our property and the rest of Nepal from the country’s second international airport at Bhairahawa. This is a long-term play and is an internationally accessible destination resort.

Q. About the project, could you give a few more details about Tiger Palace Resort for our readers. Also please give some insights on the casino and the games and facilities that it will have.

MB: We have a vision to transform South Asia’s entertainment landscape. Tiger Palace Resort will be an exhilarating, heart-stopping wholesome entertainment destination unlike anything the Indian consumer has seen before. A place to let loose, escape the everyday and live for the moment, it perfectly combines international flair with local sensibility to create a truly dynamic, engaging experience.

Our target audience is businessmen, bachelors, group of friends, families and young corporates who enjoy the good things in life and like to have fun. They seek a more exciting and higher quality entertainment options. One that is accessible yet aspirational; that speaks to their desire for a better lifestyle and international experiences.  Value driven, they look for quality, reliability and unique offerings. They like to express themselves and want to be entertained at all times. Our tagline? “Dare To Go Wild”.

The hotel and hospitality area opens first and includes 100 rooms and suites and 2 villas in phase 1, in addition to 6 separate food and beverage options, a large swimming pool, children’s arcade, gym, spa, sports facilities, wedding & banqueting facilities, and first class MICE (meetings incentives conventions exhibitions) facilities.

The casino will open with 52 tables, featuring a mix of roulette, baccarat, poker and other South Asian games, and 200 slot machines in phase one. These will be offered in separate mass, premium mass, and VIP areas.

Additional rooms are planned for phase 2, together with new casino floor space depending on demand.

We already own the areas within the property which would be able to accommodate additional phases.

Q. Recent updates suggest that the hotel rooms and other facilities will open by September-end and the casino by November. Are you still on-course for the target or has there been any revision?

MB: Yes we remain on course, in fact some of the hotel rooms have already been turned over to the operations team by the development team for final preparations.

Q. What are the revenue and growth projections for Silver Heritage from Tiger Palace Resort?

MB: We expect to generate very competitive returns relative to our peers.

Q.Finally, can you throw some light on Silver Heritage’s future expansion plans and strategy? Are you looking to expand into newer geographies?

MB: For now we have presence and focus only in Nepal and Vietnam.