Playing its cards right

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After starting out with the acquisition of Hotel The Majestic in 2008, the Pride Group today has grown since, operating five casinos and employing more than 2,500 employees
By team B&C
On winning the ‘Best Casino in India Award’ at the India Travel Awards, Ravi Kesar, director, gaming and marketing of Casino Pride Group, is a proud man showcasing the ‘Best Casino In India’ award conferred by India Travels.
In 2008, the Pride Group made its entrance with the acquisition of Hotel The Majestic (Now called Hotel Neo Majestic) along with 100 odd staffs. Today, the group has grown to 2,500 direct employees and 500 indirect employees coughing up a salary bill of Rs 4 crore monthly.
The staffs are employed in Casino Pride 1 and Casino Pride 2 in River Mandovi and the three onshore casinos are Paradise at Hotel Neo Majestic – a 72-room 5-star hotel, Casino Palms in Hotel La Calypso – a 61-room property and Casino Pearl in Hotel Bogmallo Beach Resorts, Bogmallo.
The Pride group of casinos enjoys a major share of gaming in India which is approximately Rs 600 crore. “We haven’t tapped the real potentials of the gaming industry in India when compared with South East Asian Countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Macau, Singapore and Malaysia. Comparatively, the casino industry in India is minuscule as compared with other casino destinations due to various factors,” says Kesar.
On the commercial front, he says the casino industry contributes over Rs 150 crore per annum to the state exchequer and has further potential to multiply in future given a proper policy driven support from the state government.
The Pride Group alone contributes Rs 93.10 crore which includes Rs 58.35 crore to the state government and Rs 34.75 crore to the central government in the form of various taxes and license fees in the financial year ended 2013-14, against the previous year’s Rs 48.15 crore.
Speaking about responsible gaming, Kesar says the group follows responsible gaming policies in line with international gaming standards and is working towards keeping a clean image by mitigating other risks associated with the industry elsewhere by strict monitoring and surveillance.
Today, the casino industry in Goa employs more than 7,000 people has further potential to add on. Every casino has its own training centres for new recruits. The training centre is equivalent to international standards without any costs to them and provides job guaranteed.
Since 1992 when casinos entered Goa, successive governments comprehend that the state is making gains through casino gaming. B&C polling consistently finds that more than 50 per cent of the state population agrees that Goa benefits from having casinos, for the exception of a few who occasionally would raise their voice objecting casinos in Goa.
However, casino operators say it’s a wrong notion that casino gaming is a sterile transfer of money and it creates no output. This characterization and criticism is applied to matka, sport bettings and online bettings, they argue.
By way of entry fees, the casino gaming generates essential revenues for the state government at a time when Goa’s economy is flat on account of the mining ban. More than 2.5 lakh rich people visit the casino’s gaming facilities yearly. It fosters local economic development, like hotel room occupancies, taxis and two-wheeler services, plus shopping for various beverages.
Many international gaming organizations are running illegal gaming in India through web portals. Do these portal create employment, do their generate revenue for the government, do they have economic multiplier-effect for the local economy? Through these portals Indians are gambling crores of rupees. Who can stop them, they further argue.
Goa gaming attracts only Indians, because visa rules come in the way for tourists from Bangladesh, China as there are no connecting flights. Compounded further, the Indian foreign exchange policy does not authorized to pay back in foreign currencies.
In accordance with the Gambling Act, which has been amended in 2003, the Goa Government changed the law and included MS and IV Act as one Act. This amendment gives authority to any state to register a vessel, be it Calcutta or Goa vessels to ply the rivers of the country.
To operate in any rivers of India, the vessel has to undergo 20 surveyors’ inspections. On the question of moving out of Mandovi River, Casino Pride says “if the law is enforced that we have to move. But for the safety visitors we request the government to put all infrastructures in place right form embarking to landing, proper facilities for storage of sewage and garbage handling.”
A Gaming Commission, which the government says it in the process of its formation, will put all at ease. It will be a watch-dog which will monitor the casino industry, if it is manned by people who are well-versed in this industry.
As of today since 2008, Casino Pride Group has invested Rs 300 crore. “We spend in crores on our marketing programmes all over India giving Goa more touristic leverage. This has drawn people to Goa from going to Nepal, Sri Lanka, Macau and Singapore. In 2014, we acquired MV Boa Sorte and changed its name to Casino Pride 2, which is slightly smaller in size, as compared with Casino Pride 1,” he says.

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