In a development that may spell doom for the casino industry, Goa’s state government has witnessed a change with the right-wing alliance led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) returning to power by defeating Digambar Kamat led Indian National Congress (INC).
Though it was the BJP-supported government which had issued the first casino licenses in 1999, the BJP had been fighting the current elections on an ‘anti-casino’ plank. BJP chief ministerial candidate Manohar Parrikar had declared that casinos are a nuisance and promised that offshore casinos would be relocated in the Arabian Sea, five nautical miles away from the shore.
Reports have indicated that though the BJP is not entirely keen to remove casinos but wants casinos to be bound by strict regulations like banning entry to Goan residents and those below 21 years of age and having limited number of offshore casinos.
Parrikar had also indicated that casino licenses might not be scrapped due to legal complications like violating license agreements signed by the previous government, though he added that he was not keen on issuing new license or renewing the licenses of offshore casinos.
Earlier senior BJP leader Fransico D’souza had also stated that the party only has a problem with offshore casinos and not with onshore slot machines. It may be noted that the Goa legislative assembly amended the Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act 1976 to allow casinos in 1992 and 1996 when Congress-led governments were in power.
It would be interesting to understand how the BJP government reconciles between its ideological opposition to casinos and the necessity of having casinos due to its benefit to the tourism industry and revenue to the exchequer. However, one thing is certain- the casino industry shall have to brace for stricter regulations and possibly face shutdown in the near future.