Goa’s chief minister flip-flops on need for gambling act rewrite


goa-casino-gambling-act-parrikarCasinos in the Indian state of Goa are facing even more uncertainty than usual after the state’s political leader flip-flopped on plans to amend gambling regulations.

On Wednesday, the Press Trust of India quoted Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar (pictured) saying there was “no need for amending” the Public Gambling Act 1976 because the existing Act had “enough provisions to impose restrictions on functioning of the casinos.”

It’s unclear what future Parrikar now envisions for the state’s gaming industry. Goa currently lacks a formal gaming commissioner, something the amended Act was supposed to address. The government had also sought to clearly define the legal term ‘offshore’ to ensure that, when the state’s six floating casinos are eventually compelled to move to dry land, there’s no legal wiggle room that could upset plans to relocate them to a dedicated gaming zone.

Goa’s casino operators have dealt with a lot of adversity this year, including ongoing uncertainty over their future whereabouts, stiff annual fee hikes and tax evasion probes. Meanwhile, residents of Goa’s capital Panaji are complaining of traffic congestion around the berth for the state’s newest floating casino.

Despite these challenges, a new study published in the International Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Systems claims that casinos “have taken strong roots in Goa and clearing the ever-growing forest of casinos is becoming more and more difficult as years roll by.”

The casino industry may be resilient, but the study’s author, Dr. Afonso Botelho, urged the government to follow through on its commitment to establish “a casino controlling regulatory authority or gaming commissioner” to ensure maximum returns from gaming for the state and to enact the “necessary safeguards” to mitigate “potential negative externalities.”

Botelho also suggested a number of specific regulatory reforms, including either making good on the government’s long-promised plan to ban local residents from visiting casinos or imposing stiffer entry fees. Age limits for casino workers should also be increased to dissuade school dropouts from taking casino jobs.