Casinos feel the pinch of steep fee hike

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PANAJI: Shocked by the steep hike in various fees, including annual recurring fees, for  offshore and onshore casinos, operators are in process of preparing a petition to be submitted to the state government seeking relief from the hefty fees notified for the financial year 2018-19.

The stakeholders in the casino industry said that there are only two options in view of the latest development – either close  the business or push the government to reduce the fees.

A senior official of a casino company  operating  offshore and land-based casinos in the state said the stakeholders are in the process of collecting data to prepare a representation to be submitted to the government in the next few days.

He further said  the fee hike  is extremely high for onshore casinos, which ought to be reduced by the government.

“The casinos are coming under 28 per cent  goods and service tax  bracket. With the fee hike by almost 200 per cent to 300 per cent it would be difficult to run the business, as average annual turnover of the onshore casinos is between Rs 35 crore to 40 crore,” he added.

Another operator said the huge hike in fees for the casino industry  can’t be justified as the casinos  have to pay over and above GST, other tax on dividends besides several fees to agencies   like the Goa Pollution Control Board, etc.

“If the state government does not reduce the fees then there will be no option other than shutting down the casino business in the state, which could affect the livelihood of around 35,000 people who have been dependent directly and indirectly on the industry,” he said.