Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Thursday announced the government will soon finalize rules for regulating the casino industry that has been pending due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Goa has been involved in casinos both on-shore and off-shore, for a long time. The Goa Gaming Act of 1976 authorized licensing of online casino games such as blackjack, roulette, and many others. The rules were further extended to slot machines.
In April last year, the state government had shut the casinos along with other activities due to Covid-19. From February 1, 2020, Goans have been banned entry into casinos, except those employed in it. The state government had also appointed a gaming commissioner to monitor the operations of casinos and to check if Goans violate the rules.
But even after appointing the gaming commissioner more than a year ago, the government has failed to finalize the rules for regulating the casino industry.
Files pertaining to rules governing gaming commissioner were sent to the law department for vetting, but later recalled and sent to the chief minister for his approval. Chief minister Pramod Sawant has sought a detailed discussion on rules before it is finalized.
“After discussion with the chief minister and his final approval, the file will once again be sent to the law department for vetting before it is notified,” said an insider. Sawant had said that till rules are notified, tourists will not be stopped from entering the casinos, but action will be taken if Goans found gambling.
As per the act, the gaming commissioner has to issue permits to tourists authorizing them to enter the place or area designated for gambling. The gaming commissioner is empowered to keep a check and exercise overall control over the games. But the gaming commissioner has not been able to keep a check on casino operations as the rules have not yet been finalized by the government.
Goa is home to six offshore casinos operating from the Mandovi River, while nine onshore casinos have been operating in different starred hotels in the state.
In 2013, the state government had announced that offshore casino vessels would be moved out of the Mandovi. But the government has kept on granting six-month extensions to casino vessels to operate in the Mandovi River in the last seven years, as it has failed to identify an alternative site to relocate the vessels. The latest extension of this series came on last Wednesday when the government announced that the vessels with casinos that are anchored to the Mandovi River, can continue their operations for another six months from March 31 to September 30.