Trade, tourism and gambling
The Himalayan Times, 22 Nov 2004
After a gap of a few years I again visited Las Vegas in the US to
attend a gambling conference and exhibition. Hotel rooms continue to be
added at a break-neck pace to the already existing stock of over 1,25,000
rooms in the city. The latest two billion-dollar casino cum hotel almost
ready is the ‘Wynn’.
Even more than being a gambler’s Mecca, Las Vegas has become a destination
of choice for the world’s biggest conferences. And why not? Las Vegas has
the accommodation – dozens of hotels with 5,000 rooms each – mega shopping
malls, entertainment, and the world’s biggest conference infrastructure.
How did this happen? What made Las Vegas in the middle of the desert state
of Nevada, the fastest growing city in whole of the US? Las Vegas shows
the power of enlightened laws. It shows what can be achieved by lawmakers
when they act in accordance with our basic instincts to be free to do what
we want to with our money including gambling it away.
Las Vegas is in a perpetual boom because it has legitimate gambling, is
liberal in issuing casino licenses, and has no state income tax. Realizing
that gambling cannot be eliminated by merely declaring it illegal, the
lawmakers of Nevada did away with hypocrisy which characterizes
politicians, faced upto the truth, and said, ‘lets make Nevada the world’s
gambling capital’. I cannot think of any other advantageous factor that
sets Nevada apart from other states in the US.
In fact, whatever other facts come to mind about Las Vegas and Nevada are
negative. Nevada is landlocked having no access to the seas like
California has. And yet it is Las Vegas which is thriving while California
has been in an economic decline for more than a decade. People of
California finally rebelled against their governor, threw him out of
office, and brought in Arnold Schwarzenegger who promptly reduced taxes on
cars by 66% - one of his most popular actions so far.
Nevada has an arid landscape and an inhospitable climate. California’s
coastline makes its cities like San Francisco have perhaps the best
weather in the whole of US – whatever may be the time of the year, it is
neither too hot nor too cold. However, all this is scant comfort to
businessmen who prefer lower taxes in Nevada. Many move out of California
and migrate to Nevada to take advantage of its liberal business
This shows yet again the importance which businessmen attach to low taxes
and low regulation. A desert blossoms while an oasis shrivels – all
depending on what the policies instituted by the state are.
At the conference, I noticed that there were exhibitors showing their
wares from all over the world. There were roulette wheels from England,
horse-racing simulators from South Korea, computerized gaming devices from
Slovakia, and slot machines from Australia. There was hardly a continent
which was not represented.
What amazed me was the number of products they had moved from their
countries to the Las Vegas exhibition center; the exhibition covered over
200,000 sq. fts. I asked some of the exhibitors whether they faced any
regulatory problems in bringing their goods for showcasing in the US? They
Contrast this with what would happen in Nepal; a company from Bangladesh
wanting to bring its goods to exhibit in Kathmandu, would have to obtain
multiple government approvals. Customs here would presume that the foreign
exhibitor is going to sell his goods in Nepal, and would, therefore
require it to make a deposit equivalent to the duty payable on importing
that particular good. In the US, no such deposits have to be made. The
conference organizers have special approvals which make showcased products
It is enlightened practices like this which result in a massive influx of
conference tourists to the US. Everything is linked. Lower regulation
helps tourism which in turn gives a boost to trade as well.
Nepal can do better than the US, why not convert this nation into a duty
free one? Watch it boom as people come for shopping, gambling, and yes for
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