Two decades after the first casino opened its doors in Goa, the state government Thursday announced Goans won’t be allowed to gamble in them from February 1.
A Gaming Commission will soon formulate rules to regulate the casino industry.
“The Sales Tax Commission will be appointed as the Gaming Commission on February 1. Goans will be banned from entering casinos on the same day,” Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said. The government is expected to issue the notification on Friday.
The state currently has six offshore casinos anchored in Mandovi river and nine onshore casinos operating from resorts.
The announcement — seven years in waiting (Manohar Parrikar first promised it in 2012) — follows an assurance by CM Sawant in the monsoon Assembly session. Sawant was responding to both the ruling and Opposition MLAs raising concerns about the huge debts piling up among unemployed Goans, who saw gambling as a way to earn some extra money.
The legislators had also pointed out that The Goa Public Gambling (Amendment) Act, 2012 already had provisions to impose the ban.
During Parrikar’s lifetime, local papers would have reports of women writing to him, demanding a ban on gambling as their men were wasting household savings. In the monsoon session, MLAs said the situation was worse today, with both mining and tourism industries hit and money short in Goan homes.
NCP MLA Churchill Alemao has in the past two Assembly sessions pointed at Singapore, which uses the same measure to safeguard the savings of its citizens, and ensure more foreign income is made through tourists.
“Let’s fix a date after which no Goan will be allowed to enter these casinos to gamble. Let’s all meet on this issue and figure the road ahead. Casinos should be only for tourists. This will also be a good way to ensure we think of the well-being of Goans,” Sawant had responded in August at the end of the debate.
The statistics the government had tabled then showed 564 Goans and 877 non-Goans employed in these casinos.
On Thursday, officials at the secretariat clarified that Goans would continue to work in the casinos.
The first casino in Goa became operational in 1999, while the latest opened for business early 2019. The decision of banning Goans from gambling comes days ahead of the state budget — with the state looking at heavy debts once again.
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