To be able to answer this question, let’s conduct a small tour across the only two states in India which boasts of casinos.
The State of Affairs in Goa
Political powers have shifted from the INC to the BJP; as a result, the casino industry in Goa is expected to witness massive changes. The changes might have a debilitating influence on the gaming sector. Ironically, BJP issued Goa’s first casino license. This 1999 incident is a far cry from today’s reality, where, the party contested the elections on the lines of being ‘anti casinos’.
The BJP government might not outlaw casinos, but news has it that they might prohibit Goans below the age of 21 to enter casinos. Manohar Parrikar, the Chief Ministerial candidate, has already indicated that the BJP government is not keen on renewing licenses of offshore gambling hubs. Although the government might not scrap the licenses issued by the INC government, it will definitely not issue new ones.
Parrikar’s contention was that a lot of activities happening in offshore casinos increased the rate of abortion in the city! For this reason, the offshore casinos would be banished five nautical miles into the Arabian Sea. Prior to this incident, liquor sale was banned post 11pm in casinos. This had already had an adverse impact on the nightlife of Goa.
Now that the state with the largest number of casinos in India is going to witness more regulations, I have serious doubts whether India can ever compete with the gambling hubs worldwide. However, I am curious to know how BJP would reconcile between the need to have casinos to boost tourism and fund the exchequer and their weird ideologies.
To understand the contributions of the Goan casino industry to the exchequer, let’s take a look at a report on Delta Corp Ltd, the predominant casino player in Goa, assimilated by Alchemy, a stock-broking firm. Delta Corp’s hospitality and gambling business in the state is poised to generate a gain of Rs. 135 crore on revenue of Rs. 575 crore! Alchemy estimated that this figure would be achieved by March 2013.
How would the state benefit with all the profit that the gaming sector was making?
- Alchemy reported that Delta Corp’s four offshore casinos have 75 machines and 106 tables. Every visitor has to make a payment of Rs. 3,500; out of this sum, Rs. 2,000 enters the government exchequer.
- At an average, 250 – 300 people visit a Delta Corp casino every day. Data shows that the Goa government can easily make Rs. 23 crore from only three Delta Corp casinos!
- The local government also levies a license fee which is Rs. 5 crore/offshore operator.
- The March 2010 yearend might have seen the Government of Goa make revenues up to Rs 16 crore, claims Alchemy!
This is just a Delta Corp report. The other powerful offshore casino players include the Goa Coastal Resorts and the Salgaonkar Group and onshore operators are the Majestic Hotel and the Goa Marriott Resort and Spa.
Is Sikkim Doing Any Better?
Let’s take a quick peek into the state of affairs in Sikkim, which is the only other state that has casinos. Sikkim has two casinos – Casino Mahjong, which is in the Mayfair Resort, and Casino Sikkim in Royal Plaza. The state saw its first casino only in 2009. Seven more casino licenses are yet to be approved by the Sikkim government.
Tango Wangyal, Partner, Casino Sikkim, had said in an interview on December 5 that the government had taken a step towards promoting Sikkim as a gaming hub by giving licenses to several casinos. However, there was no proactive endeavor in that regard since the government has offered no help directly or in terms of incentives for the same.
Tango also remarked that, although several companies have applied for sports betting and casino license, only three lottery operators have managed provisional licenses to establish shops. However, the petitions are pending with the Sikkim government even after two years. Tango expressed his confidence in the fact that the operations would start; however, he agreed that it could take anything between three months to three years! Despite the scenario, Tango is bullish about the gambling sector in the state and in India as a whole.
Many other states in India – Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand – were supposed to have casinos. However, there has been minimal or no effort on those fronts. I do not share Tango’s positive outlook. I cannot ignore the fact that the Government of India (irrespective of the parties involved) has always shared the common viewpoint about gambling and casinos being a taboo. They have always failed to see the positive impact that the gaming industry could have on the country’s GDP.
Will BJP’s entry into Goa spell doom for the flourishing casino industry in the state?
Sri Lanka has casinos, so does our other neighbor Nepal. Casinos provide revenue to government and employment to thousands of staff. Indirect employment by the gaming industry includes suppliers, entertainers, hotels and airline staff – opportunities expand in entire range of related businesses all profiting from casinos.
Singapore saw its GDP boosted by 15% in 2010 largely due to the opening of Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World casinos.
India must understand that a sensible policy in gaming does not make people into gamblers. It just brings the underground business activity overground. Do we need the underworld accepting bets of avid gamblers? We al know what that leads to – attempts at fixing matches. Let legitimize sports betting companies run proper betting operations as in done in the UK, the US. Why not India?