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.


Nepal court restrains Silver Heritage over Tiger Palace land encroachment, company denies allegations

A local district court in Rupandehi in Nepal has issued a temporary injunction against 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, as per a report in The Kathmandu Post.

The court reportedly issued the interim order against Tiger One and Silver Heritage Investment (subsidiaries of Australian stock exchange listed and Hong Kong-based Silver Heritage Group Limited) . Thaneshwor Ghimire, chairman of a water user group under the Bhairahawa-Lumbini Ground Water Irrigation Project had reportedly filed the writ demanding recovery of 9 katthas (3,205 square metres) of public land.

Ghimire has accused the resort of encroaching on plots 120, 148, 152 and 190 belonging to a public canal and plot 73 belonging to the government. “We have been speaking out against public property being encroached on by the resort from the beginning, but our pleas fell on deaf ears,” he said. “The resort did not coordinate with the locals and captured the land.”

Silver Heritage Group however denied that it has received any formal communication or has been served any documents in relation to the legal case. In a regulatory filing to the Australian stock exchange, the company noted, “Silver Heritage Group Limited has been advised that legal proceedings have recently been initiated in the Rupandehi District Court of Nepal by a local water consumer committee based in the region (“Committee”) against two of the Company’s Nepal subsidiaries.

The Company or its subsidiaries have not been formally served with any court documents or evidence in relation to the proceedings, however the Company understands the Committee alleges that there has been construction upon a small area of land located in and around Tiger Palace Resort which is owned by the Government of Nepal and managed by the Committee under Nepal’s laws relating to canals and irrigation.

The Company intends to defend these proceedings and shall keep the market informed of any developments in line with its continuous disclosure obligations. “

Ever since the launch of its flagship Tiger Palace Resort property two years ago, Silver Heritage Group has been involved in a host of controversies, including resignation of many members of the board of directors and top management, allegations of financial irregularities, dispute with its local Nepalese partner (which was later settled) and closure of its casino operations in Vietnam.

The company is looking to either sell its Tiger Palace property or bring in a joint venture partner for the project. The proposal has reportedly received interest from several companies, including four major Nepali entities. Boutique investment banking firm Union Gaming has been appointed by the company to advise it on the proposed transaction.

Business Gaming

Four Nepali companies looking to acquire Tiger Palace Resort

At least four top Nepali companies are vying to buy or invest in the Silver Heritage Group owned Tiger Palace integrated casino resort in Bhairahawa located on the India-Nepal border, as per a report in local daily Kathmandu Post.

Kathmandu Post further reports that the business deal for the casino resort could be worth around US$33 million. The Nepali business conglomerates interested in the deal include Chaudhary Group, IME Group, Vishal Group and a Nepali non-resident based in Malaysia.

The talks with potential buyers or joint venture partners are said to be in the preliminary stage.

Australian stock-exchange listed Silver Heritage Group had in a regulatory filing last month informed that it had appointed boutique investment banking firm Union Gaming as its exclusive advisor to help locate strategic partners, or buyers for its Tiger Palace operations.

The company has noted that the gaming revenues at the casino in Tiger Palace resort has been steadily increasing and the VIP gaming rooms have received a positive response.

However, the company has faced multiple setbacks and problems in the recent past including closure of its Vietnam casino operationsmultiple resignations from its board of directors, accounting irregularities and dispute with its local Nepalese partner.

Trading of the Silver Heritage Group on the stock exchange currently stands suspended and the company has taken a bridge loan of Nepali Rupees 50 million (around US$450,000) to tide over the financial issues faced by it.

Read more about the gaming industry and business in India.

Business Gaming

Silver Heritage Group improves Nepal casino revenues; looks for strategic partners

Hong Kong based and Australian stock exchange listed casino operator Silver Heritage Group has disclosed that business has substantially improved at both its integrated Tiger Palace Resort in Bhairahawa on the India-Nepal border and at its Millionaire’s Club Casino at Shangri-La Hotel in Kathmandu.

The company, in a regulatory filing to the Australian stock exchange, noted that the feedback at the VIP gaming rooms in Tiger Palace have been overwhelmingly positive and that it continues to see good traction from Indian and Chinese players at its Kathmandu casino.

While Silver Heritage did not provide exact figures about its revenues, bar charts shared by it, showed the drop at Tiger Palace at roughly double the prior-year period for each month of the quarter, with March approaching 300 million Nepali rupees (approximately US$2.69 million).

The gross gaming revenues generated by the company in March 2019 was in the range of around US$700,000, which was almost double of the revenues generated during the same period in 2018.

The company said it is continuing to work on its 2018 accounts after the discovery of irregularities, which were disclosed in March 2019.

The casino operator has been undergoing some troubles over the past few months, including closure of its Vietnam casino operations, multiple resignations from its board of directors, accounting irregularities, dispute with its local Nepalese partner and suspension of trading on the Australian stock exchange.

To tide over the setbacks, the company has recently appointed boutique investment banking firm Union Gaming as its exclusive advisor to help locate strategic partners, or buyers for its Nepal operations.


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.


Nepal govt to introduce provisions to regulate casinos in Tourism Bill

The Nepal government has decided not to go ahead with a June 2018 tourism department proposal to bring a separate legislation to regulate the casino industry. Instead, the government is now planning to introduce legislative provisions pertaining to the casino industry as part of the new Tourism Bill that the government is currently drafting.

In June, the government moved to bring a separate Casino Act to streamline the industry and encourage new global players to enter Nepal amid expectations of a boom in the tourism and hospitality industries with the ongoing development of more than 10 five-star hotels across the country. However, it now seems that the government will be taking a different approach to regulate casinos.

“We will bring the Casino Act, but not separately. We are currently discussing the issue. As per the plan, the casino law will come out as an annex to the Tourism Act that the government is currently drafting,” Tourism Secretary Krishna Prasad Devkota is quoted as telling the Kathmandu Post.

As per the news report in Kathmandu Post, government officials feel it would be better to integrate casino-related provisions in the proposed Tourism Act.

While the casinos in Nepal are currently governed by the Nepal Casino Regulations, 2013, many feel that the current regulatory framework is weak as the regulations are not backed by a law passed by the parliament. Many casino operators have refused to pay the license fees, taxes and royalties due under the Casino Regulations and have instead chosen to approach the Supreme Court for relief.

Experts believe that a comprehensive law to regulate casinos will end the ambiguity on payment of fees and also usher a proper regulatory framework that will end the current legal complexities and ambiguities.


Silver Heritage Group settles acrimonious dispute with ex-Nepal partner

Australia-listed casino operator Silver Heritage Group has announced that it has entered into an out-of-court settlement with its former partner Rajendra Bajgain. The company announced that Bajgain and his brother Nabaraj Bajgain have sold their ten per cent shareholding in its Nepalese subsidiary, SHL Management Services (KTM) Pvt. Ltd., to another one of Silver Heritage’s group entities, i.e. Tiger Kathmandu Investment Pvt. Ltd.

The company further noted, “Silver Heritage and Mr. Rajendra Bajgain have mutually agreed that the vision and objective of opening the region’s first Integrated Resort (Tiger Palace at Bhairahawa, Nepal) has now been met, and that the collaboration and partnership between the two parties in Nepal has reached its natural conclusion.”

The Silver Heritage management further thanked Bajgain for his services and efforts and added that he would be returning to his role as the Managing Director of Gurkha Encounters Pvt. Ltd., a travel and tourism company.

Few months ago, Bajgain and the Silver Heritage management had an acrimonious dispute after which the company terminated his consultancy agreement. Bajgain on the other hand accused the company of not following immigration laws while hiring foreigners for the Tiger Palace resort project. He had further filed a civil case against the termination of his consultancy agreement. A local Nepalese court had stayed the termination of his agreement.

Gaming Legal & Regulatory

Nepal govt to bring new law to regulate casinos

The Nepalese government has announced that it will be submitting a new casino bill aimed at encouraging foreign investment into the sector, and bring its existing casinos in line, as per local media reports.

“We will be submitting a draft to the Cabinet next week for its approval in principle to prepare a Casino Bill 2018,” said tourism ministry spokesman Ghanshyam Upadhyay as per a report in The Kathmandu Post.

“The Law Ministry has given its okay to a preliminary draft. After the Cabinet’s approval, we will begin to draft the bill. The move to introduce the Casino Act is to enhance investment and employment in the industry which is expected to grow quickly,” he said.

While the new law is touted to increase foreign investment in the industry, reports indicate that the sole objective of the new Act is to bring existing casinos in line as they have been operating freely without paying taxes and royalties to the government.

This is due to an interim order from the Supreme Court in 2016 that essentially has allowed operators to continue operating whilst only paying a portion of what they owe.

“The most complicated matter for the department is that it cannot collect taxes and royalties as it has scrapped their licenses. In the legal sense, the casinos are operating unlawfully. But, we have to honor the court’s ruling,” said an unnamed official from the Department of Tourism.

The new Casino Act will supersede the Casino Regulation 2013, which currently govern casinos in the country and also the Supreme Court’s orders, said officials.

“It will also regulate the casinos in a more managed way and protect the investment of foreign investors”, said the unnamed government official as per The Kathmandu Post.

According to the recently released budget statement, there are seven casinos operating in the country. However, there are three other casinos still running as a result of a court order.


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.