Casinos in the Indian state of Goa will be off-limits to local residents as of Saturday, February 1, while the government also took steps to form a permanent gambling regulatory body.
On Thursday, Indian media quoted Goa’s Chief Minister Pramod Sawant saying he would appoint the state’s Commissioner of Good & Services Tax as Goa’s new Gaming Commissioner responsible for crafting rules to regulate the local casino industry.
Goa’s lack of a permanent gambling regulator partly explains the chaos that habitually reigns in the local casino sector. There are currently six floating casinos on the River Mandovi and a slightly larger number based in five-star hotels.
The new Gaming Commissioner’s first order of business will be ensuring that no local residents – or ‘original Goans’ as CM Sawant called them on Thursday – step foot on a casino gaming floor ever again. Sawant said the ban would be enforced “step by step,” starting with a formal notification being issued “either today or tomorrow.”
Once that notice is given, Sawant said the Gaming Commissioner will have the authority to “enter the casinos at any time and ask for identity card if he suspects anyone to be a Goan.” Sawant was mum on details, but previous efforts to ban locals offered a carveout for locals who work in casinos, while also restricting casino access to individuals 21 years or older.
Goa’s casino business was launched two decades ago with the aim of attracting tourists from overseas as well as from other parts of India. Truth be told, local residents were never wild about gambling in Goa’s casinos, and recent surveys showed only 1.1% of Goans visited local casinos on a monthly basis.
Thursday’s announcements represent a rare example of Goan authorities actually achieving any of their stated aims to revamp the gaming sector, and the locals ban only took them eight years after approving amendments to the 1976 Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act way back in 2012.
Thursday’s announcements will also boost hopes that the government will finally address the far thornier issue of finding a permanent home for the six floating casinos. The current plan is a temporary shift to some other local waterway – although no one can say where that will be – ahead of a permanent transfer of shipboard gaming operations to a designated land-based gaming zone.