Gambling enthusiasts generally have a tough time in India. Out of the 29 states in the country, only two allow casinos – Goa, and Sikkim. A union territory, Daman (formerly a part of Goa), also has casinos. Goa online casino is very popular in the country and throughout the world.
And even here, they are allowed only under a stringent set of terms and regulations. As per the Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act 1976, casinos can only be set up in five-star hotels or offshore vessels with the prior permission of the Government.
I think we all know how one is expected to procure this “prior permission” from the Government, but that is a topic better left for another article.
Thanks to the aforementioned rule, the number of legitimate casinos in India is so few in number, we might as well enlist them here. The State of Sikkim has three casinos – Casino Sikkim, Casino Mahjong, and Deltin Denzong. Goa boasts sixteen casinos – ten of them are based on land and the other six floating on the Mandovi River.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were big plans to bring Macau-like mega gambling resorts to Goa, mainly near the Mopa Airport currently under construction in northern Goa.
There is no doubt that Goa is the biggest gambling hotspot in the country. As the host of 16 legal casinos both on land and on water, it is, quite unsurprisingly, the source of the vast majority of the land-based gambling activity in the country.
Compared to bordering states like Karnataka and Maharashtra, Goa is a tiny state with a small population of approximately just 1.8 million people. In contrast, Karnataka is estimated to have a population of approximately 62 million and Maharashtra 114 million.
Despite this fact, Goa still leads the charts in terms of gambling activity, followed by Sikkim, another small state in Northeast India. Together, they make up for almost 90% of all the legal gambling that takes place in the country.
As a coastal state, Goa is especially successful in the casino business because it can allow both land-based casinos and offshore vessel casinos. These vessels are like the Riverboat Casinos famous in the US Southern states. The boat casinos have a significant advantage over land-based casinos – they are allowed to host board games which are illegal at land casinos.
With its sun-kissed beaches and green hills, this enchanting state has always attracted tourists. In the 1980s and 90s, there was a decline in visitors to the state, as other destinations with casinos, like Nepal, started becoming more popular. The State Government led by Raj Naik decided to bring casino gambling to attract more visitors to Goa. To this end, the government made small amendments to the Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act of 1976:
26[13A].Authorised Game.- (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, the Government may authorised any game of electronic amusement/slot machines in Five Star Hotels 27 and such table games and gaming on board in vessels offshore as may be notified} subject to such conditions, including payment of such recurring and non-recurring fees, as may be prescribed.
These four lines that the Goa legislative council slipped into section 13 of the Public Gambling Act of Goa back in 1992 is what makes gambling and casinos legal on Goan soil and Goan waters.
It is also responsible for attracting millions of Indian and foreign tourists to Goa throughout the year. Another amendment, which deals with off-shore casinos and essentially allows these off-shore casinos to operate in Goa was drafted and introduced in 1996 by the State Government and the Chief Minister at the time – Pratapsing Rane.
In 2012, the latest Goan state legislation regarding gambling was officially adopted. The amendment to the bill was passed by the State Government under the leadership of Chief Minister Digambar Kamat. The newly added sub-clause served to legalize the transfer of licenses of off-shore casinos with paying an amount that could go up to a staggering 6.5 crore per license transfer.
This amount has been capped at 6.5 crores but starts at a meagre 2 lakhs. It has proved itself as a great method of revenue generation. It has been proposed that the money raised by such measures will go into setting up gambling de-addiction and rehabilitation centres all across Goa which will help people that are suffering from addiction to overcome their vices.
As mentioned earlier, Goa is not very populous and it is also the smallest state in the country. It is financially inclined to rely on its thriving tourism industry. And the vast majority of local Goan residents do not use the casinos – it is mainly foreign and domestic tourists who visit these places.
As a result, gambling and casinos directly affect tourism in this region. It is critical that such activities aren’t outlawed, if anything, they need to be encouraged and the procedure that dictates the opening and operating of such casinos need to be relaxed and made easier.
Politicians recognized these facts and Goa became the first state in the country to legalize gambling and give out licenses to casinos. The minimum legal age to gamble was and still is set at 18. Like with most legislative subjects, there were two sides to the gambling coin, it had to face considerable opposition from some locals.
Over the decades, the casino gambling business has assumed great importance in Goa, particularly in politics. Many political parties and leaders have used opposition to casinos to win elections, only to allow the casinos to continue operating once they come to power.
The late Manohar Parrikar, former Chief Minister and Central Defence Minister had taken a stance against land-based casino resorts and boat casinos on several occasions over the years. But his BJP government did not bother to shut down these casinos despite having a popular mandate.
The situation with the off-shore boat casinos outside Panaji on the river Mandovi in these last few years is a case in point. The local civic body has been threatening these casinos with closure or revoked licenses unless they relocate to other spots away from Panaji.
But due to local opposition, the casinos and government have been unable to find suitable new locations. Still, the casinos continue to function, as the state government chose to give them extensions every six months. This has been happening for several years now.
For the most part, online gambling in India is not exactly illegal, but at the same time, it cannot be considered fully legal either. It falls under the obscure grey area and the complexity is only increased by the fact that each state in the country has the sole discretion to rule on the matter. Nonetheless here are all the legal websites were Indians can play online slots.
The State of Sikkim had used this discretion to issue licenses to organizations that propose to setup such online casinos and gambling websites. But intervention from the central government stopped these initiatives. Only Sikkim residents can access online gambling sites licensed by the state. It cannot allow them to serve other Indian states.
This includes the people of Goa. The state does not have a clear law on online gambling, despite being a hotspot for offline casinos. There is a logical reason for this – the casino resorts and boats serve domestic and foreign tourists, not local Goans.
The local residents prefer other forms of gambling, like lotteries, matka, and in recent years, online casinos as well. Though it is not strictly legal, online casinos in India are discreet and easy to access, without any risk of social stigma usually associated with land casinos.
As a result, millions of people across the country still post bets online. Goa is no exception. All this is possible because popular online gambling websites such as Betway and Royal Panda all are based outside India, in countries where online gambling is legal.
These websites are perfectly legal in the countries where they are based, and they accept bets from customers all over the globe, it is clear that they especially cater to Indian customers as they provide the option of representing the monetary value in INR (Indian Rupees).
The Goa State Government, their counterparts in other states, and the Central Government have all attempted to adopt measures to prohibit Indians from making bets on these international websites.
They introduced the Payment and Settlement Act in 2007 in which they essentially gifted themselves (The Reserve Bank of India) the unreserved rights to inspect, question and deny any online transactions through bank accounts, credit/debit cards, and even modern payment options like e-wallets (Neteller, Skrill or Entropay.)
Despite the introduction of this law, it proved nearly impossible for the Government to monitor millions of on-line international transactions every single day.
Nowadays, if you use a normal credit or debit card to make a transaction to or from an online casino website, the transaction will immediately be declined by your bank. This problem can easily be overcome by using an E-wallet or a digital wallet. There are plenty of options such as PayPal, Google Wallet, Neteller, Entropay, Skrill and tons more.
After miserably failing to regulate online transactions, the Government turned to Internet Service Providers to get the situation under control, using the Information Technology Act, 2000. Using the provisions of this act, the government can instruct Internet Service Providers to restrict and block access to certain websites.
This list includes off-shore websites that could be used for online gambling. But the enforcement of these rules is not very efficient. Almost any internet connection in the country and any internet browser can be used to access most online gambling websites such as Betway and Royal Panda.
Even if and when they do impose these restrictions, the internet is a free place and should remain that way. Indians will still be able to access any website they want by simply using anonymity networks which allows for anonymous and unrestricted browsing of the internet. The Tor (The Onion Router) browser is one such tool that allows a user to access any website from any location. It can be downloaded free of cost.
The chief minister recently increased the onshore casino license fee for the second year in succession by around $80,000 and by $160,000 for offshore casinos. An application fee of around $32,000 has been introduced, from which the Goa government hopes to earn around $250,000 in additional revenue of $2,398,500. The fee hikes were 4.5 times the older rate for land casinos and 3.5 times the rate for boat casinos.
As already mentioned, only a small fraction of Goans use the casinos in the state for their gambling needs. This has allowed Goan politicians to use an anti-casino stance to win votes. In 2012, the late Manohar Parrikar had promised to prevent casinos from serving Goan customers, ostensibly to reduce the negative impact of casino gambling on the local society.
In 2019, Parrikar’s successor, Pramod Sawant, the current state Chief Minister, used the same pledge during elections. The government declared a ban on locals entering Goa casinos starting from February 2020 as part of that promise.
This decision is expected to have little impact on the casino business in Goa, as a paltry 1% of the population use the casinos for gambling. The main source of revenue is Indian and foreign tourists, which remain intact.
Over the last few years, there have been several credible rumours that the government is planning to revolutionize the gambling industry in the state. The Chinese gambling destination of Macau is reportedly the blueprint for these plans.
Macau started heavily liberalizing its casino industry in the early 2000s, resulting in huge investment by US and other foreign casino brands. Now, it is a major tourist and gambling destination rivalling Las Vegas.
There are several curious similarities between Goa and Macau – both were Portuguese colonies where gambling was legal for a long time. Now it seems that the Government plans to invite companies that could not invest in Macau to get a chance in the Goa casino resort industry. The local Goa people take casino pride in them and want to further expand their place as the world’s next big casino hotspot.
The new airport coming up at Mopa is widely seen as possibly linked with this mega-casino project. Unverified reports indicate that the project could lead to the creation of a $1 billion land-based casino market.
It could also potentially solve the perennial issues associated with boat casinos. Due to lack of suitable sites, boat casinos are being kept alive by frequent license extensions. With this new project, these casinos could be converted to land-based casinos.
But given the uncertainty surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the future of this project is not clear. We will have to wait until the crisis passes to get clear signs.
Sports gambling in India is a grey area. Horse racing is legal and protected by Supreme Court decisions that make it clear that it is a game of skill, and not pure luck/chance. The country has many race clubs dating back hundreds of years, but none of them is located in Goa.
While all other forms of sports betting are illegal in Goa, like the rest of India, punters can easily place bets at illegal bookies. Cricket and football are very popular sports in Goa, the home of many talented national football players over the years.
Online sports betting has continued its rise in popularity in the state, along with the rise of online casinos. The legal situation is the same – the Government often issues bans against the sites serving Indian players. But there are many high-quality online sportsbooks that are safe and easily available to Goan punters.
Casino Palms are compact casino offering roulette, baccarat, digital poker & slot machines, plus food & drink. There are a lot of casino palms in Goa and you can have a great time out with your family and friends.
It is one hell of an experience and you must check out the best casino palms in Goa before visiting one.
Casino Paradise is one of Goa’s biggest and most glamorous onshore casinos and is a favorite destination for nightlife lovers. Situated in the Neo Majestic Hotel, the site covers an area of 5,000 square feet with elegant interiors and all the gaming amenities made available under one roof.
You can enjoy digital roulette stations, roulette tables, blackjack, baccarat, mini flush, electronic slot machines, and the Robotic Arm Baccarat station. You get alcoholic drinks and live music. Overall it is a dream place for gamers and people who love to do satta.
The entry fees to the Casino start from 2,000 rupees per person Monday to Thursday, and 3,000 rupees Friday to Sunday. Unlimited food, alcoholic drinks, entertainment, and an allotment of playing chips included.
The entry fee to the Goa Casino starts from INR 2,000 per individual from Monday to Thursday and starts from INR 3000 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. This includes unlimited food, alcoholic drinks, and an allocation of certain playing chips alongside which is included in the whole package.
With gambling still being discussed by law-makers Goa remains one of India’s top destinations for gambling and betting. It has been for years with highly acclaimed casinos that Mumbai ´s and India’s high class likes to frequent during holidays.
We hope the above guide provided all the information you need to be informed on Goa betting laws.