Goa is one of only three Indian states that permit casino gambling and its 15 gaming operations – four of which are located on boats on the Mandovi river –collectively attract around 15k visitors per day. But that figure is likely to fall if new legislative proposals win government approval.
The Times of India recently quoted home secretary Sanjiv Gadkar saying his department had approved draft rules that would bar local residents from entering casinos, while also barring entry to anyone under the age of 21 years, regardless of their place of residency.
Under the proposed rule changes, anyone wishing to enter a Goa casino would have to provide proof of identity and residence in the form of a passport or other government-issued ID. Only then would the state issue a ‘tourist permit’ that would authorize casino access. Gadkar said the changes would not apply to Goa residents who work at the casinos.
Should the regulations be approved, Goans caught gambling in a casino would be subject to prosecution under the 1976 Goa, Daman & Diu Public Gambling Act for participating in a ‘common gaming house.’
This isn’t the first time Goa’s politicians have taken such steps. In 2012, the government approved amendments to the 1976 act to ban local access but the necessary regulations were never developed and thus the ban was never enforced.
The new proposals remain a long way from being implemented. The Goa law department is currently reviewing the draft rules to ensure they’ll stand up to judicial scrutiny. Some local casino operators have publicly suggested they’ll mount a legal challenge if the new rules are approved, but given that the casinos were only granted licenses based on their ability to drive tourism, such protestations would likely fall on deaf ears.
The proposed changes also call for the establishment of an independent Gaming Commissioner to oversee the local gaming industry, including the issuing of tourist permits and deciding what types of games casinos can offer.
Taxes and levies on Goa’s casino industry contribute an estimated $30m per year to the government’s coffers yet the industry’s existence remains a thorny subject in the state. The four floating casinos – the only ones allowed to offer live casino table games – will see their licenses expire on March 31, 2016, and a political push is on to float them further downriver, and preferably out to sea.