From January 2019, only tourists to be allowed in Goa casinos
Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday said that only tourists would be allowed entry into casinos starting next year, as the state government seeks to restrict the entry of locals after it was accused of despoiling the social fabric of Goa by encouraging gambling.
“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,” Parrikar told the Goa legislative assembly.
The announcement came in response to persistent demands by opposition parties as well as civil society organisations.
Parrikar also promised that Goa’s offshore casinos, all of which are floating in the Mandovi river off the state’s capital Panaji, would be moved out to a designated gaming zone after which no fresh offshore casinos would be allowed.
“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,” Parrikar said.
Casino owners said these decisions, along with an earlier one to hike the annual licence fee would force them to close shop. “Our business will reduce by 50%,” said Kundan Shetye, a local onshore casino owner. 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. Top BJP leaders, including Parrikar, on several occasions, promised to close down the offshore casino industry after coming to power.
When the BJP came to power in 2012, the Congress accused the saffron party of being in cahoots with the casino lobby, especially after successive coalition governments headed by the BJP failed to follow through on the party’s promise to shut the casinos.
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