The state government in Goa has decided to implement the law barring Goan locals and youth below the age of 21 from all casinos in the state according to local media reports. It is set to come into force from April 1, which is the beginning of the next fiscal year in India.
Goa is one of the three states in India that allows legalized gambling and currently has four offshore and around 10 onshore casinos. Although the amendment for the bans was enacted in the Goa Public Gambling Act in 2012, it has so far not been implemented despite announcements.
The decision to bar locals has been heavily debated in the state with strong arguments coming in from both sides. While the casinos and a few residents have protested saying that it is discriminatory and will encourage illegal activities, others have supported the ban saying there has been an increase in gambling addiction in local communities due to the casinos. The ban was a part of the election manifesto of the ruling BJP party.
According to local media reports, the state’s Law department has finished reviewing the rules to enforce the ban, moving the process forward towards ratifying the rules by the beginning of the next fiscal year. The amended rules also allow for the creation of a Gambling Commission headed by a commissioner to regulate the industry and its casino operators. However this is still in the works and no deadline has been fixed as to when the commission will be operational.
In a statement, Sanjiv Gadkar additional secretary Home department said, “The Law department has made some observations which would be adhered to. The rules will be required to be placed before the cabinet as there is need to appoint a Gaming Commissioner.”
According to a government official, entry into offshore and onshore casinos will now require an identification document, a prerequisite which will help in implementing these rules. State officials have also said that government-appointed teams will conduct surprise checks to ensure that the rules are being followed. The government has said earlier that it is not worried about the impact of the rule on revenues, saying that the decision is one of policy. Casinos currently pay annually over Rs. 100 crores in taxes to the state government.
Casinos have suggested implementing measures like special gaming permits and special day passes that allow locals to accompany out-of-station guests in the casinos, prevalent in gambling locations in Macau and Europe, but that is unlikely to find favour for now given the extent of opposition to gambling in the state.