The ink on a new resolution in Goa prohibiting locals from stepping foot inside area casinos is just barely dry, but is already receiving some public pushback. Goa’s Chief Minister Pramod Sawant recently appointed the region’s Commissioner of Good & Services Tax to be the new Gaming Commissioner, a position that will enforce prohibition of locals from entering casinos. However, not everyone is happy with the plan and at least one of Sawant’s fellow legislators believes the state is headed in the wrong direction. He has publicly come out to question the validity of the move and, while supports the gambling ban, doesn’t feel that locals should be prevented from visiting casinos.
In reality, Goans have been banned from entering casinos since The Gambling Act of 2012 was introduced. However, not much attention has been paid to the rule until now. State Ports Minister Michael Lobo doesn’t necessarily disagree with the prohibition on gambling and believes that there is a difference between being allowed to enter a casino and being allowed to gamble at one.
According to The Times of India, Lobo states, “There are other things in casinos besides gaming. There is music, entertainment, food, etc. Nepal and Sri Lanka have banned their citizens from gambling in casinos. Goans are Indian nationals, so you should not allow all Indians entry while not allowing Goans. This needs to be debated at the highest levels.”
The Gambling Act of 2012 was introduced after complaints of individuals losing their shirts to gambling. However, gambling addiction is something that needs to be treated, not swept under the rug. Just because gambling is illegal doesn’t mean that people aren’t going to gamble, and not allowing locals into casinos only forces the activity to go underground where no consumer protection can be found. It also prevents governments from collecting revenue on the activity.
Lobo also believes that matka, a type of lottery, should be legalized, as well. If Goa were to embrace it, the state could collect tax on the activity, once again helping to fill voids in the coffers. Lobo recently explained to reporters, “Today or tomorrow matka will be legal. There will be no ban. It will be legal. It will come under the ambit of law. No one pays GST on matka. There is a huge loss to the government. My request is to let it come under the purview of law and GST should be applied on it.”
Another legislator, state Congress president Girish Chodankar, believes the appointment of a Gaming Commissioner is nothing more than a “sham.” He questioned the move at the beginning of this month, asserting, “The CM’s announcement of appointing a Gaming commissioner is like throwing dust in the eyes of the people. The law was already amended in 2012 to appoint a Gaming Commissioner, but successive BJP governments did nothing to implement it. The [Bharatiya Janata Party] should now answer why despite amending the law in 2012, no rules were notified to allow for appointment of the Commissioner or for the official’s functioning.”