Which city has the highest per capita income? Some would say New Delhi. After all, it is the capital of the country. Maybe you would think Mumbai – the business capital of India. No, it is neither. You may be surprised to know that Goa has the highest per capita income, according to a report released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation in May 2012. With its per capita income at Rs. 1,92,652, Goa is way ahead of the national average of Rs. 60,972 (more than three times the national average figure!).
Why is Goa shining? Several initiatives are being taken to create an investor-friendly environment. Apart from this, Goa is a favoured tourist destination. Approximately 12% of foreign tourists who visit India are headed for this beach haven.
A former Portuguese colony, Goa boasts of a vibrant culture and is famous for its breathtaking beaches, quaint churches and wildlife sanctuaries. The Dudhsagar Falls, Basilica of Bom Jesus, Mangueshi Temple, and a recently launched wax museum that houses waxed models of various Indian personalities make Goa a popular destination for tourists.
More recently, another attraction that has added to Goa’s popularity as a tourist destination are its casinos. Over the past few years, Goa has witnessed a surge in the number of casinos, despite the fact that gambling by law is heavily restricted in India.
No doubt the casino industry is still in a nascent phase in Goa. It nevertheless offers some of the most popular games, albeit all machine games (like slots), rather than the table ones (like Blackjack and Roulette). So, if you are planning a vacation in Goa, here are some of the casinos you just should not miss.
Casino Goa at Caravela – India’s First Live Gaming Casino
Designed to match the international standards, Casino Goa is India’s first live gaming casino. It is located on a cruise ship, Caravela. A huge 215 ft long ship, Caravela can easily board more than 300 people. The upper deck of the ship is reserved for sightseeing. The more adventurous take the opportunity to enjoy American Roulette, Rummy, Stud Poker and Blackjack at Casino Goa.
Caravela is named after the first Portuguese ship that made its way to Goa in the sixteenth century.
This casino is known for its gaming style, which matches international standards. Moreover, the presence of trained dealers, make the games more entertaining and exciting.
Entry Fee: There are a variety of packages, most of which cost Rs. 2,500-3,000 per person on an average.
Types of Games: American Roulette, Blackjack, Poker
Casino Royale, Goa’s largest and unarguably the most scintillating casino stands near the Mandovi River. This floating casino, stationed on a humungous boat, boasts of five operational desks and a huge 12,000 square feet gaming expanse. Moreover, as many as 50 gaming tables and about 15 slot machines make the ambience perfect for the ardent gamers.
Las Vegas Casino at the Leela Resort
Where: Mobor Beach, Cavelossim
Entry Fee: Rs. 500 per person for all guests
Types of Games: American Roulette, Slot Machines, Derby Games (all automated), Blackjack, Mini Flush and rapid roulette.
One of the most famous beach resorts, The Leela Kempinski, is built on a huge 75 acres of landscaped garden. Las Vegas at Leela offers a wide range of games, including Blackjack, Baccarat and Mini Flush.
Casino Dunes, The Zuri Resort
Where: Pedda, Varca
Entry Fee: Rs. 500
Casino Treasures, Majorda Beach Resort
Where: Majorda, Salcette
Entry Fee: Rs. 200
Types of Games: Jackpot Slots/Video Machines, Roulette and One Arm Bandit.
Treasures is among the first casinos in Goa. There are many games here that can give you an adrenalin rush and keep to wide awake till late at night. The structure is inspired by the world of pirates and the interiors add to the thematic ambience. The location is beautiful, with the resort overlooking a breathtaking beach.
Casino Goldfinger, Cidade de Goa Beach Resort
Where: Vainguinim Beach, Goa
Entry Fee: Rs. 200
Types of Games: Baccarat, Roulette, Blackjack and Computerized Derby.
Cidade de Goa was the first five-star resort to be constructed in Goa. Goldfinger is home to several exciting games. You can place blackjack at a modern card table, which does not have physical cards. You play using virtual cards.
History of Casinos in India
In India, gambling has always been heavily restricted. The Public Gambling Act of 1867 restricts running or owning a public gaming house. Despite this, India has been eager to try its luck with gambling. In fact, the Indian gambling market is estimated at around US$60 billion per year, of which around half is bet illegally.
While India is not new to gambling, casinos are a more recent phenomenon. In this large and diverse country, gambling is legal in only two states, namely Goa and Sikkim. Both these states have experienced significant economic improvement courtesy the casino industry.
India’s first live gaming casino was inaugurated in Goa in January 2001. While things looked hopeful initially, the casino industry fell victim to regulations in the years to follow. It was not until 2007 when the state government permitted a significant increase in the number of casinos in Goa.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of casinos in Goa – land-based casinos (of which there are eleven) and offshore casinos (of which there are four). The offshore casinos are operated in specially adapted vessels that are anchored on the Mandovi river.
For years, Sikkim stood witness to an outflow of revenues to its neighbour. Nepal, where casinos became legal, would attract Indian and foreign tourists alike. Sikkim finally woke up to take on the challenge and decided to not waste the opportunity any longer. Casinos were legally permitted in this state in 2008.
I wonder how many years it will take for India to legalize gambling and begin generating revenues from the boost in tourism. Of course this will give a significant boost to GDP growth.