Mohandas Pai supports casinos in Goa; advocates Singapore model

Former Infosys director and member of Goa’s IT Advisory Committee, T.V. Mohandas Pai supported casinos in Goa and suggested that they are important contributors to the government exchequer that enables the completion of various infrastructure projects in the state.

Pai, a veteran investor, activist and philanthropist, was in Goa on a short visit and made the remarks in an interview given to local daily Navhind Times.

Pai made the comments on the casino industry in response to a question about the challenges faced by the state of Goa.  He stated that some people are opposing casinos and beach resorts but that may not be a correct approach.

He further added that the Singapore model of regulating casinos should be followed, wherein casinos should be permitted but a high entry fee should be levied on locals who wish to play in casinos.

The Singapore government levies an entry fee of around US$ 75 per day or US$ 1500 per year on locals who wish to play in casinos. Pai suggested a similar model in Goa to allay concerns about the social impact on locals due to the casino industry.

In the past, several social organisations and political parties have opposed offshore casinos in the state of Goa. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has however suggested shifting the offshore casinos, currently situated in the River Mandovi to an entertainment zone on land.


Nepal govt’s notification banning use of high denomination Indian currency notes to impact casino industry

The Nepalese cabinet’s recent decision to ban the use of all Indian currency notes above Rs. 100 is expected to severely affect the tourism and casino industry in the Himalayan state, as per a report in The Kathmandu Post.

Although there was a pre-existing ban on use of Indian currency above Rs. 500 in Nepal, the restriction was rarely enforced. The new notification banning Indian notes of Rs. 200, Rs. 500 and Rs. 2,000 value will be a big blow to the tourism, hospitality and casino industries of Nepal which are cash intensive.

“The decision is a big setback particularly for cash-driven industries like tourism,  The major impact of the decision will be on the casino industry, hotels and restaurants.” said Basanta Raj Mishra, a senior tourism entrepreneur in Nepal.

Anil Punjabi, chairman of the Travel Agents’ Federation of India reacted to the ban by stating that casino players from India visiting Nepal will now switch to Goa or Sikkim, since carrying large amounts of INR 100 denomination notes is extremely cumbersome.

Reacting to the ban, Suman Ghimire, president of the Chitwan chapter of Hotel Association of Nepal stated that credit card is still not popular in South Asian countries and people carry pocketfuls of cash.

Since a majority of Indians come to Nepal over land from bordering towns, it’s difficult for them to convert their currency to dollar or Euro.

“If the Indian currency limit was set up to INR 500, we would be more comfortable,” he said. “This is an unpopular decision as no one will carry a bulk of the amount in plastic money to Nepal.”

Legal & Regulatory

Delta Corp subsidiary files petition in Bombay HC seeking license for Daman casino

Daman Hospitality Private Limited, a subsidiary of listed gaming company Delta Corp Limited, has filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court today seeking a direction from the court to the union territory administration to grant a casino license to the company under Section 13A of the Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act, 1976 (as applicable to the union territory of Daman and Diu).

As per a regulatory filing to the stock exchanges, Delta Corp has stated that its company Daman Hospitality has named the Union Territory Administration of Daman and Diu; Administrator of Daman and Diu and Director of Tourism of the Union Territory Administration respondents to its petition.

The company has not provided any further details on the averments made in the petition or date on which the plea is likely to be listed before the court.

In 2014, Delta Corp’s subsidiary had started a five-star resort named ‘The Deltin’ in Daman and had planned to start electronic amusement/slot machine games at its resort. However, since the company has not received any license or regulatory approval from the union territory administration for the past four and a half years, it has decided to approach the High Court seeking a direction in the matter.

Delta Corp is India’s only listed gaming company that operates three offshore and one onshore casino in Goa; two hotels in Goa; one resort in Daman and a casino in Sikkim. In 2016, the company also acquired Adda52, an online skill gaming portal.

Gaming Legal & Regulatory

Nepal govt moots new law to attach assets of fugitive casino operators

The Nepal government is mooting new legislative measures that would give it powers to attach the personal properties of casino operators who default in paying royalties and taxes.

As per local media reports, the Nepalese government has drafted a new legislative framework that would govern the casino industry as part of a Federal Tourism Bill that is expected to be tabled in the forthcoming session of the parliament.

The proposed law will give the government sweeping powers to attach the personal properties of casino promoters not just in Nepal, but also seize assets located outside the country, a legal provision that is somewhat similar to the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act passed by the Indian parliament.

In July 2013, the government introduced regulations to have oversight over the casino industry. It decided to get tough as some casinos were not paying taxes and royalties and flouting the rule barring Nepali residents from entering casino premises.

In April 2014, the government decided to shut down all casinos not abiding by the Casino Regulations, 2013 and terminate the licences of those defaulting on royalties. However, some casinos approached the Supreme Court to have the new regulation struck down. Three casinos have been continuing to operate taking advantage of an interim order of the Supreme Court allowing them to remain open.

The new bill has proposed making the hotel liable first. “As the casino licence belongs to the hotel, it should be liable, and accordingly, the new law will define it. If the casino operator fails to clear the dues, the hotel will be liable to pay them first,” a ministry official told Kathmandu Post.

The proposed bill not only allows the government to confiscate the personal property of fugitive casino operators, but also has provisions allowing seizure of their passport and bank accounts. The government can also stop utilities like water and electricity to tax defaulting operators. The draft, however, is not clear whether the measure will also apply to old defaulters.

The proposed law will also mandate that casino operators have to spend at least 2 percent of their profits to uplift society as part of their corporate social responsibility. Additionally, the bill has proposed stringent penalising operators found allowing Nepali residents to gamble or even enter casinos.

“We have held several rounds of discussions on the new law. We plan to consult the private sector and the public regarding the new bill,” said Ghanshyam Upadhyaya, spokesperson for the Tourism Ministry. “The final draft will be sent to the Finance and Law ministries for their approval before submitting it to the Cabinet.”

After the cabinet gives the go-ahead, the bill will be tabled in Parliament. “House committees may hold several rounds of deliberations before the bill is endorsed,” said Upadhyaya.


INCLA petitions PMO demanding amendments in gaming laws to allow casinos in cruise ships

The India Cruise Lines Association (INCLA), backed by Rajya Sabha MP and Essel Group Chairman Subhash Chandra, has approached the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) demanding several concessions and amendments in existing laws to enable promotion of the cruise shipping and tourism sectors.

INCLA convenor Jurgen Bailom has shared the organisation’s demands to the PMO which include reduction in GST rates applicable on supply of goods and services on board cruise ships, tax holidays for the cruise industry and single window clearances.

Significantly, the trade body has also demanded that amendments be made to the existing entertainment and gambling laws as currently there are certain restrictions on gaming, casino operations, entertainment, etc. on board cruise vessels within the territorial waters of India.

“Currently, these services are provided to the cruise passengers while the cruise ship is beyond 12 / 200 nautical miles from the Indian coastline since these entertainment and gambling laws do not tend to apply beyond 12 / 200 nautical miles. However, while the cruise ship is within the Indian territory, cruise liners are unable to provide gaming, entertainment and casino services to the passengers and meet their expectations,” said a cruise line operator as per a report in DNA newspaper

In August 2018, INCLA had made similar demands to Union Minister for Shipping, Road Transport, Highways, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Nitin Gadkari in a whitepaper presented to him on the sidelines of a Global Cruise Conclave.

INCLA had also demanded that the central government amend the existing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy to allow foreign investment in casinos on cruise vessels.

Interestingly, Chandra’s conglomerate, the Essel Group, has several interests in the gaming and lottery business. Essel Group markets state lotteries under the brand name ‘Playwin’ and also runs online poker and fantasy sports websites.

The business group has in the past also attempted to operate an offshore casino in River Mandovi in Goa under the name ‘Maharajah casino’ but after failing to get a license from the state government for several years, leased its cruise vessel to Haryana politician Gopal Kanda’s GoldenGlobe Hotels.


Eventus International to host Gaming & Tourism conference in Nepal in September 2019

After the release of the schedule of a flagship gaming focused event ‘SPiCE’ in Goa in February 2019, Hong Kong-based specialist event management company, Eventus International, has announced a first of its kind tourism and gaming focused event at the Tiger Palace integrated casino and resort in Bhairahawa, Nepal, near the India border.

The two-day event, to be held on 24th and 25th September 2019, is branded as ‘Gaming, Entertainment and Tourism Summit’ (GETS) and will be supported by Silver Heritage Group, the Hong Kong-headquartered and Australian Securities Exchange listed hotel resort and gaming company, which owns and operates Tiger Palace Resort, as well as by the Ministry of Tourism of Nepal and the Nepal Tourism Board.

The will delve into tourism and tourism-related investment opportunities in Nepal, and will discuss the experience of foreign investors (FDI) and other organisations in the Himalayan nation across multiple sectors. The summit will also discuss future opportunities and current experiences in the booming casino industry across South Asia, including Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka.

Eventus International will be bringing together leading experts in tourism, investment, gaming, regulation, infrastructure and technology, to discuss thought-provoking topics that affect the gaming, entertainment and tourism industries in the South Asian region.

Commenting on the announcement of GETS, Yudi Soetjiptadi, Managing Director at Eventus International said; “It is our honour and privilege to present the first-ever summit of this kind held in Nepal. We hope to bring together all stakeholders associated with the gaming and tourism sector in Nepal and the wider the South Asian industry and to help all participants to understand the unique opportunities available in one of the most rapidly emerging investment destinations, Nepal, as well as neighbouring India.

We are delighted to be hosting the event at the beautiful Tiger Palace Resort in Nepal, which is South Asia’s first Integrated Resort and strategically located near the Indian-Nepal border, between two UNESCO World Heritage Sites – those of Lumbini and Chitwan.”

Mike Bolsover, CEO of Silver Heritage Group, who is an Advisor to GETS 2019 said, “Eventus International is an experienced group who always organise and execute first-class events, and having been to many as a delegate and a speaker we are honoured to have Tiger Palace Resort, and Nepal, as the destination and host for GETS 2019.”

Jay Sayta, Advisor to GETS 2019 added, “ Nepal has been fast emerging as a popular tourism and entertainment destination in Asia, with companies from India, Sri Lanka and China interested in investing in making massive investments in the sector. Eventus International’s decision to hold a structured dialogue on the massive tourism potential and opportunities in the casino and entertainment industries in the region is a timely and welcome step.”


Offshore casinos in Goa given six month extension; govt officials indicate casino policy on the anvil

The Goa cabinet through circulation of papers granted a six month extension to offshore casinos in the state to remain stationed in the River Mandovi.

State Public Works Department Minister Sudin alias Ramkrishna Dhavalikar announced on Saturday that Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar signed a cabinet note granting a six month extension to the six offshore casinos to operate in River Mandovi until 30th March, 2019.

Offshore casinos were earlier granted extension to stay in the River Mandovi until 30th September, 2018, but like in the past, a decision was taken to extend this date once again.

Chief Minister Parrikar had informed the state legislative assembly in August 2018 that the government is working on a new casino policy that would shift the offshore casinos to a designated zone on land within the next four years. He had added that the casinos would be granted licenses for 10-15 years due to the heavy investments that would be made by companies in shifting their operations to land.

Parrikar had also assured the house that a casino policy to provide a roadmap for the transition was expected to be released in August this year.

A Times of India report however quotes anonymous state government officials as saying that the notification of the casino policy is delayed as Parrikar is suffering from a pancreatic ailment and is currently recuperating at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi.

It is however understood that the casino policy may be finalised and notified in the near future, once the Chief Minister gives his approval.

As per media reports, state government officials have stated that they have no objection if the casinos moved their operations to a designated area near the proposed Mopa airport, where land has already been acquired and earmarked for business activities.


SpiceJet announces flights to Sikkim from 4th October, move to boost gaming in the state

Private airline company SpiceJet has announced that it would be starting its daily flight service to Pakyong airport in Sikkim from 4th October onwards, as per media reports.

The company has stated that it would be starting the Kolkata-Pakyong flight service under the regional connectivity scheme UDAN, which would have an introductory fare of Rs. 2,600.

The flight to Pakyong airport from Kolkata airport would depart at 9:30 am everyday and would have a flying time of around 90 minutes. Daily flights from Pakyong-Kolkata would depart at 11:15 am.

From 16th October onwards, the airline will also operate an onward flight to Guwahati. The Kolkata-bound flight will leave Pakyong at 2:50 pm, after its return from Guwahati, and reach the city at 4:20 pm.

The greenfield airport in Pakyong (around 30 kilometres from Gangtok) is ready since November 2017. The airport has received necessary approvals from the civil aviation ministry but could not start regular commercial flights due to certain approval related issues.

Gaming operators in Sikkim, in November last year, had reacted positively to the announcement of the new airport, saying that the state presently cannot realise its full potential as a tourism and gaming destination due to connectivity related issues.

Commenting on the news, Anil Malani, President (Operations) of Delta Corp Limited had stated in November 2017, “A greenfield airport at Pakyong, about 35 kilometres from Casino Deltin Denzong promises to significantly increase footfalls by directly connecting people from key cities across India. The airport will be a major boost for tourism, positively influencing the gaming industry. Deltin Casino stands to gain the most because of its location in Denzong Regency Hotel which is opposite the Kangchenjuga, the second largest mountain range in the region.”

Manoj Sethi, Director of Golden Gaming commented, “The overall tourist inflow to Sikkim will definitely increase manifold because of the launch of the new airport. Earlier, our patrons had to travel for many hours from Bagdogra to Gangtok, but the new airport will definitely make things easier. The footfall at our gaming outlets will also increase post the launch of the airport.”

Gaming Legal & Regulatory

INCLA urges govt to permit casinos on cruise ships, FDI in gambling

The India Cruise Lines Association (INCLA), a newly formed industry body to lobby for cruise ships has urged the government to allow casinos aboard cruise ship vessels to promote and nurture the shipping industry.

The trade body has further urged the government to relax entertainment and gambling laws for cruise ships and permit foreign direct investment (FDI) in casinos operated on-board a cruise ship. The association also made several other suggestions for reforms in policy, tax and various regulatory laws to ensure a level playing field for the cruise business in India.

INCLA made the recommendations to Union Minister for Shipping, Road Transport, Highways, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Nitin Gadkari in a Global Cruise Conclave held in Mumbai on 30th August. INCLA’s  suggestions were presented in the form of a white paper that was handed over to Gadkari by Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament and Essel Group Chairman Subhash Chandra.

Interestingly, Chandra’s conglomerate, the Essel Group, has interests in the gaming and lottery business. Essel Group markets state lotteries under the brand ‘Playwin’ and also runs online poker and fantasy sports websites.

The business group had also attempted to operate an offshore casino in Goa under the name ‘Maharajah casino’ but failed to get a license from the state government for several years, after which the company in 2017, entered into an agreement to lease the vessel to Haryana politician Gopal Kanda’s GoldenGlobe Hotels. Chandra’s group has now announced that it would be foraying in the cruise business in partnership with an International brand.

Notably, Union Minister Gadkari, one of the senior most BJP leaders in the country, has in the past, opposed the idea of having casinos in India.

“We oppose things like casinos, and I will not give permission for that. People will also not tolerate such things,” Gadkari is quoted as having said in 2016. It remains to be seen if Gadkari changes his stand on the utility of casinos in light of the white paper presented by INCLA, given that he has promised to promote and support the shipping industry.


Adda52 announces DPT Xpress Poker tournament in Sikkim from 27-30 September

Online poker website Adda52 has announced that it will be hosting the first every edition of its flagship Deltin Poker Tournament (DPT) in Sikkim.

Branded ‘DPT Xpress’, the poker tournament will be hosted in Gangtok’s Deltin Denzong casino (at Hotel Denzong Regency) from 27th-30th September, 2018.

The tournament will feature relatively low stakes events (ranging from five to fifteen thousand rupee buy-ins) to cater to newer and upcoming poker players. Day one will see a Rs. 5,000 buy-in tournament, day two will feature a Rs. 10,000 buy-in tournament while the main event on 29th September will see a Rs. 15,000 event.

A players choice event will be hosted on the final day (30th September). The format and type of the event has not yet been announced, with the company stating that the event will be decided based on popular feedback received from players.

Commenting on the first of its kind poker event in Sikkim, Manish Adnani, Business Head (Poker) of Delta Corp Ltd. said, “DPT has evolved as a product over the past 28 months since its inception in early 2016. Back then we just had one series the Deltin Poker Tournament which attracted regulars , pros and all kinds of recreational players. As the fabric and the space has evolved we felt the need to have a Super High Roller series which took shape in the form of DPT Colossus in April this year clearly dissecting the High rollers from the rest of the pack.

Having said this, there are players who do play cash games at least 3-4 times a week in A , B and C cities but never make it out of the closet to a DPT event as they generally don’t land up playing live tournaments primarily due to high buy-ins and the standard of the game with the pros and regulars participating in these player fields.

DPT Xpress is specially designed to get these players out of their closets giving them a taste of tournament experience with spectacular destination like Sikkim with exciting cash games.  We hope that the players enjoy this experience in Sikkim as it will be a lot of fun all around.We will be live streaming the Bounty and Main Event Final table and hope to give everyone an great experience.Going into 2019 we will have three distinct properties DPT , DPT-Colossus & DPT Xpress catering to the poker playing community in India.”