New Casino Policy will allow only tourists to enter casinos in Goa

Goa Casino New Policy
Only Tourists Can Visit Casinos in Goa (HT File Photo)

The aim behind this move is to restrict the entry of locals after the state was criticised for spoiling the social environment of the tourist destination by encouraging gambling.

As there is always a demand from Indian society to curb gambling and to promote healthy habits in Indians , recently the Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrokar has announced that from January 2019 only visiting tourists will be allowed to enter Goa casinos. Earlier liquor too was banned at Goa beaches because of many indecent incidents that happened.

In the Goa Legislative Assembly Parrikar said that as a policy Goans will not be permitted to enter the casino’s playing areas and only visiting tourists shall be permitted. A mechanism in this regard will be put in place once the gaming commissioner is appointed and appropriate rules for regulation shall be formulated soon.

Parrikar pointed out that during his tenure in the year 2012, he had passed a legislation which allowed only tourists to visit the off shore casinos. “The legislation never came into force after that,” he said.

Offshore casinos operating in the Mandovi river off Panaji would be relocated to special designated zones which will be notified by the state government in the upcoming policy.

The government shall identify notified designated zones where present offshore casinos can be shifted. That means the government will notify zones. Licences for offshore casinos will be issued provided they grant their willingness to shift within a year’s time.

Also the licences for casino operations being granted in a designated zone can be considered for a tenure of 10 to 15 years taking into account the huge investment required for such projects.

There are currently six offshore casinos operating from the Mandovi river, while there are nine onshore casinos which function in the numerous five star resorts which dot the state.

Parrikar said that in the existing act, the state government has power to cap the number of casinos in a particular area. “We will use these powers capping the number of off shore casinos in Mandovi river to only five which are existing. The sixth casino will not be allowed,” he said. “The sixth off shore casino can go somewhere else and can operate only if people of the area don’t have a problem,” he said.

Casinos in Mandovi river will cease to exist after three years

Parrikar also assured the House that the amendment to the Prevention of Gambling Act would be made during next assembly session which will ensure that all the casinos in river Mandovi cease to exist after three years. “We will delete the clause that allows casino on vessel. The off shore casinos will be given an option to move to land in the special entertainment zone where Goans would be banned from entering,” he said.

“If off shore casino operator does not move to the special entertainment zone within three years, he will not be able to operate in the river,” Parrikar said. Consultancy firm, KPMG has been designated to identify the entertainment zone, he added. Parrikar also assured to appoint Gaming Commissioner who will be a nodal officer for the casino activities in the state.

Casinos might close their shops

Casino owners said these decisions, along with an earlier one to hike the annual licence fee would force them to close their shops. According to a local onshore casino owner Kundan Shetye “Our business will reduce by 50%,” He said if the government “reverses its earlier decision to hike the fees, then maybe we can manage” to run business. Earlier this year, the government hiked the annual recurring fees of casinos by more than 100% . The six floating casinos in Goa currently do business of around ₹120-crore a year and see 400 footfalls per vessel per day during weekends.

When in the Opposition (from 2007-2012), the BJP had vociferously opposed casino operations in Goa, most of the licences for which had been granted by Congress-led coalition governments. As mentioned above many BJP leaders, including Parrikar, on several occasions had promised to close down the offshore casino industry after coming to power.

When the BJP rode to power in 2012, the Congress accused the saffron party of being in agreement with the casinos especially after successive coalition governments headed by the BJP failed to shut offshore casino operations.