Casinos add to the revenue generated in Goa and have boosted tourism here with many domestic visitors coming here to gamble. The coastal state has emerged as a leading casino tourism destination and the gradual rise in the casino industry in Goa has coincided with an increase in tourist footfalls. Today there are total 14 casinos in Goa which includes six offshore and eight onshore casinos and as of the 1st February 2020, Goans are banned from entering all the 14 casinos. This has been a plan that has been in the making since last year. In this article, we’ll see whose idea it was, why it failed before and why now the ban has been implemented.
Casinos have always been a political game right from the beginning. BJP won the election in 2012 and raised the issue of casinos calling them the devil and blaming the Congress for bringing this devil to the Mandovi. People supported the BJP meaning that most of the people of Goa wanted the Casinos gone from here, but that did not happen. Once the BJP gained power in 2012, they decided to remain silent on the issue of casinos.
Now it was the job of the opposition (Congress) to shout and tell Goans how the casinos are making an impact on the Goan society and that they need to be removed from the Mandovi. The Congress started blaming the BJP Government and the then CM of Goa, Mr Parrikar, for supporting the casino lobby.
To silence the opposition and regain the confidence of the voter, the BJP decided to work on the new game and that is banning the Goans from entering the Casinos since they were aware that they won’t be able to remove the casino from the Mandovi since that was the only milking cow left after the closure of the mining industry.
According to the reports, Mr Parrikar had started this process of banning Goans from entering the casinos in August 2019.
“As a policy, Goans will not be permitted to enter the casino playing areas. Only visiting tourists shall be allowed. A mechanism will be put in place once the gaming commissioner is appointed,” the former chief minister late Mr Manohar Parrikar told in the Assembly, adding that the offshore casinos operating in the Mandovi river off Panaji would be relocated to specially designated zones which will be notified by the state government in the upcoming policy. “The Government shall identify notified designated zones where present offshore casinos can be shifted. That means the government will notify zones… Licences for offshore casinos will be issued provided they grant their willingness within a year’s time.”
Casinos are here to stay regardless of what the MLA and candidates promise to the people from their constituency. Presently the casinos generate major chunk cash flow for the government treasury and the almost bankrupt Government cannot afford to take the risk of moving the casinos out of Goa.
Coming back to the topic, following in the footsteps of his guru, the present CM of Goa decided to take this ahead and finally managed to bring the ban on Goans from entering the casinos.
According to the reports, The Goan government banned locals from gambling in 14 casinos located in the state from February 1st. Chief minister Pramod Sawant attributed the decision to a rise in gambling and said it was to save the “local culture”. The issue has acquired political overtones over the years with the two main parties in the state.
By the way, Goa is not the only place where locals have been banned from entering the casinos and in fact, Sikkim, the only other state with casinos, is also where locals are not allowed entry in them in order to “safeguard the interest of the local people.” In Nepal, the government banned its citizens from entering casinos in 1977.
Although Goa finally implemented the ban of locals in the casino the rules enforcing the ban are yet to be framed. Even countries like Macau, South Korea and Vietnam have banned locals from entering casinos. Singapore, which hiked the casino entry fee for citizens from S$100 to S$150 per day, saw no decline in the numbers of locals willing to gamble.
According to a recent study, nearly half the men in Goa engage in some form of gambling. The study published in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry said that lotteries and Matka, which are banned, were the most popular forms of gambling. Interestingly, just 1.1% of the respondents said they had visited the casinos where gambling was permitted.
According to the sources, on an average, 8 million tourists visit Goa each year, of which nearly a million are foreigners. A sizeable chunk of these foreign tourists visits casinos. The state government collected Rs 411.44 crore as revenue in 2018-19 from onshore and offshore casinos. With its outstanding liabilities at over Rs 22,000 crore and the state also facing a 30% shortfall in GST collections, the casino ban for locals represents an additional shortfall for the state coffers.
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