Goa Government Once Again Yields And Gives Offshore Casinos 6 Month License Renewal
Offshore casino operators in Goa were under pressure from October 2019 after the City of Panaji announced that they would not be renewing their offshore licenses. Goa is one of the most popular tourist states in India and is one of the three states in India to offer casino games.
Why Are Offshore Casinos Popular In Goa?
Goa is the only state in India to have both a land based and an offshore casino industry. The land based casinos in Goa are not stand alone casinos like the ones in Las Vegas or Macau. These land based casinos are usually found within 5 star hotels and are not very big in terms of the number of slot machines, table games and casino floor size.
Offshore casinos on the other hand offer players a unique floating casino experience. These offshore casinos operate on the River Mandovi and have turned into a massive tourist attraction for both domestic and international tourists. Goa’s offshore casinos give players a different experience when compared to a land based casino. These floating casinos are used solely for the purpose of casino gaming and have a dedicated staff to take care of players.
Most Indian players do not get the chance to get on a cruise vessel in India. Coming on board a floating casino gives them a chance to experience what it is like being inside a cruise vessel even though the floating casino is docked. Some of the major gaming firms also hold top notch tournaments at these offshore casinos which means there is always money to be won.
Why Does The Government Want Offshore Casinos Closed?
The state government has been pushing for a number of years to shut down the floating casino industry. The reason for this push to shut down the offshore gaming industry alternates between politics, religion and protecting the environment.
- Political: There are allegations that some of the offshore casino operators have ties to different political parties – the two main parties being the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). One party tries to protect these offshore casinos from being closed while another tries to keep them open based on their affiliations.
- Religion: The BJP government is often referred to as the saffron party because of their strong Hindu stance. They are the current ruling party in the state of Goa and they believe that gambling is a black mark to the state. They want to shut down the gambling industry and get rid of what they believe is a social evil.
- Environment: While the first two points are debatable and require more proof to be taken seriously by a court of law, there are more grounds for the third reason which is damage to the environment.
There are allegations that these floating casinos are polluting the River Mandovi by discharging sewage and chemicals on a daily basis. There are as many as 8 floating casinos on the River Mandovi and they have been accused of changing the ecosystem, damaging the environment and polluting the waters in Goa.
Why Did The Government Extend The Licenses?
The state government did not keep its promise of not renewing the licenses of these offshore casinos and granted them another 6 month extension. This license extension does not come as a surprise because this game has been going on for years. Offshore casino operators have been threatened in the past of not having their licenses renewed but in the end have not only managed to get extensions but have also evaded the push to get their offshore casinos relocated from the River Mandovi.
The state government is not in a position at this point in time to shut down the offshore casino industry as Goa needs to revive its economy after being in lockdown for over a month. The offshore casino industry is not only a huge tourist attraction but also provides the state government with significant revenue in the form of gaming taxes.
The government has also reiterated its plans of finding a new home for these offshore casinos and moving them off the River Mandovi. However, this exercise has also been going on for the last few years but a suitable location has not been found and these offshore casino operators are happy to continue operating on the River Mandovi.