Casino operations

India: casinos in Goa reopen to tourism at half capacity as Covid-19 cases slow down

Goa has six offshore casinos on Mandovi river such as Majestic Pride Casino, pictured left, and about a dozen others inside leading hotels in the state.
2021-09-21
Reading time 2:06 min
Only guests who are either fully vaccinated or show negative RT-PCR certificates will be allowed at gambling venues. The reopening measure was taken by the state government as Covid-19 cases slow down following a deadly second wave to revive economic activity and in anticipation of Goa's peak tourism season, expected for the next month.

Casinos in Goa, India, reopened to tourists on Monday as Covid-19 cases have decreased over the last weeks. The news follows a decision taken by the state government to reinitiate operations in a variety of entertainment areas, including casinos, spas and massage parlors, while others such as music festivals are still awaiting permission.

Guests who are either fully vaccinated or those with an RT-PCR negative certificate will be allowed at gambling venues, said Chief Minister of Goa Pramod Sawant on Saturday, reports The Indian Express. The announcement was made after the state government’s expert committee opined it was prudential to do so.

“The expert committee compared the positivity rate over the last two-three weeks and it has been under 2%,” said Sawant. “In order to revive economic activity and tourism activity, casinos have been allowed to reopen on Monday with strict standard operating procedures.”

The casinos will be allowed to open at 50% capacity for now. All tourism-related activities had been shut down in Goa since the state was hit by a deadly second wave of Covid-19 cases. Now ready to relaunch tourism, the government has also written to the Union ministries of home affairs and external affairs to give special permission to allow charter flights into Goa.

Goa counts with six offshore casinos on Mandovi river, off state capital Panaji, while about a dozen others run inside leading hotels. The casino industry in Goa employs thousands of people and contributes big revenue for the state, and the relaunching of operations is expected to help tourism return.

The reopening permission is also expected to be beneficial to other tourism-related activities and businesses such as hotels, restaurants, taxi services and more. Peak tourist season in Goa is expected for the next month.

“With casinos reopening, almost 14,000 people working in the industry will get a boost,” said Travel and Tourism Association of Goa president Nilesh Shah. “In addition, the hotel industry in Panaji and in North Goa will also get a boost. Right now their occupancy is about 20-30%.”

While casinos have become an integral part of tourism in Goa, attracting both domestic and international guests, lockdowns and restrictions throughout the pandemic severely hit their operations.

“It has been a very hard time. In the first lockdown, we were shut for about seven months. This time, it was for about four months and 20 days,” said Shrinivas Nayak, director at Majestic Pride Group, which operates the Majestic Pride Casino on the Mandovi, according to the previously cited news source.

“We have nearly 2,500 employees and we could not have laid them off. That is not human,” added Nayak. “The lockdown was uncertain and it kept extending week by week.”

As a result, the government also lost meaningful revenue in terms of tax and license fees, significant for what is a small state that heavily depends on tourism.

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