peaking to IANS, India's Largest Independent News Service, Furtado said that the city of Panaji, arguably the capital of India's casino industry, should not emulate the world's sin-city Las Vegas when it comes to setting up the proposed Gaming Commission, which is expected to keep tabs on casino functioning.
"Las Vegas is a city of casinos, for casinos and by casinos. There is nothing else but casinos there. Goa certainly does not have a profile like that. Here casinos are only a part of the offering. We have culture, environment and so many other things," said Furtado.
Gambling in Las Vegas, in the western US state of Nevada, is regulated by the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC), which lays the law and implements it in Las Vegas's 70-odd casinos, which represent a nearly us$ 20 billion industry.
The NGC decides on the minimum pay-out ratio, a key component in casino operations worldwide. A pay-out ratio is used to determine how much money a game of chance offers to gamblers, in comparison with the money earned by the House (as the casino operation managers are referred to).
The mayor said that following NGC might not be healthy for Goa, but that norms put in place by the Gaming Commission in London would be more appropriate. "Everything in Las Vegas favours gambling because the economy depends on gambling money. The London gambling scenario is more like Goa, where casinos are only one part of what it offers," Furtado said.
The Gambling Commission was set up under the Gambling Act 2005 to regulate commercial gambling in Britain. Currently, barring licensing and other administrative matters, there is no agency in the Indian state which is empowered to monitor gaming operations in a casino. The commission was first proposed in 2010 by the Congress-led coalition government, under which casinos mushroomed.
The proposal, though publicly welcomed by the casino industry, never saw the light of day until incumbent Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar announced that the Gaming Commission would be set up by August this year.
The Commission would not only have regulatory and penalising powers, but would force casino managements to ban gambling addicts from hitting the gaming floor.
Helpline numbers would also be launched for those who want to quit gambling, he added.
Civil society groups have been lobbying for a Gaming Commission for years now, because of the proliferation of casino operations in Goa. "No gaming commissioner appointed and no mechanism in place to check illegalities suggest that the government is in connivance with casino owners in the illegal transactions," claimed Sabina Martins of AAAG (Aam Aurat aur Aadmi against Gambling)
Goa has four functioning offshore casinos on board ships anchored in the Mandovi river and nearly a dozen onshore casinos housed in the numerous five-star resorts dotting the beach state. The first offshore casino in Goa started operations in 2001.
Officially, Goa's casino industry sees a us$ 150-160 million turnover per annum - but sources say, it is actually way above that figure.
Official figures, placed in the Goa Assembly, say casinos -- both offshore and onshore -- paid the state exchequer us$ 22 million by way of taxes for the financial year 2012-13. The government also earned us$ 3 million in the form of entry fees; us$ 5 million through annual licence fees from offshore casinos; and us$ 4 million via annual licence fees from onshore casinos.
Additionally, the state government collected nearly us$ 9 million through an entertainment tax, us$ 300,000 as value-added tax, and us$ 150,000 through a liquor licence fee from offshore casinos, while collecting just over the same amount from a a liquor licence fee from onshore casinos.