Besides being a regular columnist, Rakesh Wadhwa is the executive director of Nepal Recreation Centres and managing director of Casino Everest and Casino Royale in Kathmandu. He talked to us about gambling and the game of business.
Gambling is considered a social evil. Don't casinos encourage it?
People gamble everywhere. They place bets on cricket matches and toss coins. You can't really stop them. The government is in no position to stop them either. A casino gives them a place to gamble with fixed rules and regulations. Ninety-nine percent are responsible gamblers. They don't gamble if they can't afford it.
What about the black-money-washed-white in casinos phenomenon, especially with Indian gamblers?
That is a myth. They can't claim to the taxman to have won money at the casino without producing a certificate as proof. On the basis of this, they'd be liable to taxes in both Nepal and India. It would be a loss for both parties.
Do casinos rig the games so they never lose?
No, there is no such thing. We make rules that ensure odds in favour of the casino. More than 95 percent of our players will always lose. Only five percent win. The casino has a little edge in some games such as blackjack, but if the players know the rules, they can easily win. Also, each table wins at least once so it is really all the player's luck.
A lot has been made about the contribution that casinos make to the national economy. Is it really that important, and don't the negative effects outweigh the revenue to the state?
We do contribute in various different ways. We take from the rich and give to the poor, really. We employ up to 700 people in each casino, on an average. And we pay Rs 10.45 million as royalty to the government per casino. We also encourage local singers and dancers in a big way and provide entertainment and outlets for people who want a night out.
Where do you draw the line between gambling and compulsive gambling?
Don't gamble. Don't gamble in casinos. If you must gamble, gamble with money you can afford to lose. Take the free meals and drinks. Don't get drunk and lose unnecessarily. It can become a compulsive habit. But that is true of most things: anything in excess and you will suffer. You must be prepared to face the consequences of over-indulgence and pushing yourself beyond your limits.