The casino industry in the state is giving thumbs up to the idea of shifting the offshore casinos on shore, but want regulations in place to provide a level-playing field for everyone.
Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar had on Thursday said that the government is contemplating allowing the offshore casinos to shift their operations onshore as one of the options.
Sources from the industry informed this daily that the idea to permit the offshore casinos to operate on shore was initially ideated and suggested by industry giants at the beginning of the tenure of the current government to ex-chief minister and present Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
Former managing director of Delta Corp Limited Narendra Punj said that the industry would certainly be interested in moving from offshore to onshore. “Operating cost for the casinos offshore is high compared to onshore. Therefore, moving on shore is a more viable option to these casinos,” he said.
Though director of Casino Pride Shrinivas Nayak welcomed the proposal, he stressed that the offshore casinos should be given exclusive licences to run onshore live gaming casinos. Currently, the onshore casinos are granted licences to only provide machine-operated gaming casinos.
Nayak said, “We have invested huge amounts in the vessels and if we are told to shift, we will do it but what about the vessels? We will re-incur investment costs for onshore casinos and the government will have to ensure security to our investment.”
However, Dr William Britto, managing director of Chances Casino (onshore) and considered a pioneer of the casino industry in Goa, said that the government should appoint a gaming commissioner and ensure regulatory mechanisms for the casino industry. He questioned the logic of two types of licences for the same industry. “Why are there two levels of licences for casinos? Those who are already running onshore casinos be granted live gaming licences,” he added.
Britto further said that to bring in uniformity in the business, the government could put in place mandatory requirements to be fulfilled such as number of tables, number of theatres etc to provide live gaming casino licence.
Offshore casinos have been a political issue and have reappeared in the manifestos of all political parties during consecutive elections in the state.
Sources said that the move to allow casinos to move on shore would help in consolidating the industry. “The vessels from where the offshore casinos are functioning are not seaworthy and, therefore, the government cannot force these vessels to move out of River Mandovi. However, the government is not willing to give up on the huge sums of revenue the industry provides in addition to employment,” the source added.
Stating that the offshore casinos have been an eyesore to the citizens, the source further said that giving onshore platform was the easiest and lucrative option, as the onshore casinos have not faced opposition.