International edition
September 25, 2021

The state attracts 2.4 million visitors annually

Goan casinos facing closure as government cracks down on underage gambling

(India).- Casinos are a major attraction in the Indian state of Goa where the tourist dollar contributes significantly to the economy. But now, many are facing closure as the government cracks down on underage gambling.

F

amous for its sand, sea and sun, Goa is a tourist hotspot. Its numerous beach-side parties attract many overseas visitors. But Goans are not in the mood to celebrate. Casinos have seen their business fall, and many people are at risk of losing their jobs.

Narendra Punj, managing director, High Street Casino, said: "We've seen a drop of about 90 % in visitation in southern Goa casinos. In north Goa and Panjim, we've seen a drop of at least 50 % of business, which is really, disturbing us. We are managing to sustain as of now, but I don't think we can carry on like this for long."

Goa is the exception in a country where gambling is illegal. The state attracts 2.4 million visitors annually. Recently, state authorities implemented measures to discourage local young people from gambling.

Digambar Kamat, Chief Minister of Goa, said: "There were a lot of complaints that middle class people's (families) children were going to the casinos. Probably they used to rob money from somewhere; they used to get money from their father's pockets. I wanted to discourage that. I don't have a problem if tourists go there or foreigners go there."

The entry fee to get into casinos has increased ten-fold from us$ 4 to us$ 40. The state government has also doubled its taxes on gaming revenue. Rocky, a casino goer, said: "I think it's too expensive. It is going to hamper us from coming here any more. It will restrict us from coming here. It is too much of an increase."

Analysts said the gaming industry can generate an annual revenue of up to us$ 15 million. But that is not likely to happen if casinos can only attract occasional visitors.

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