"Casinos are for tourists. Some come to Goa only to play in the casinos. Goans should not go to casinos. I agree with this," Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant told the legislative assembly on Wednesday.
There has been a longstanding demand in Goa to ban locals from casinos but despite assurances by previous chief ministers of such a step, no ban has ever been imposed.
In his reply to demands of legislators from both the ruling and opposition parties, Sawant said that he agreed with the view that locals should not be allowed to enter casinos.
He also announced that a date for the ban to come into effect would be decided after consultations with his lawmakers, Hindustan Times reports.
Goa’s six offshore casinos operate out of ships anchored in the Mandovi river that flows past Panaji, the capital city.
"We will fix a date. After this date no more Goans will be allowed in casinos. Give me some time. Let’s together finalize a date," Sawant said.
Sawant’s assurance came on the back of demands from legislators both ruling BJP and opposition who alleged that casinos are ruining local families.
"I know many Goans businessmen and builders who have become addicted to gambling because of this. I assure you that if you ban locals from casinos the business of the casinos will go down by 50%. In Macau no locals are allowed in casinos," said Atanasio Monserrate who represents the state capital Panaji where all of Goa’s six offshore casinos are anchored.
The 19-year-old industry isn’t just a big draw for thousands for tourists but contributes around Rs 300-crore to the state coffers in licence fees and around Rs 90 crore per year as State GST. Not including the other fees and taxes the industry pays like excise duties and anchorage charges it still makes up 5% of the state’s annual revenue of Rs 7500-crore. And that’s just government revenue.
From one offshore vessel which began operations in the year 1999, the state today has six gaming vessels that all float within a one-kilometre stretch of the River Mandovi. Industry insiders reveal that each venue makes a turnover of around Rs 120-crore per year and draws 600-800 people per vessel, especially on weekends.
Sawant reiterated the government’s promise to set up a designated gaming/entertainment zone to move the existing casinos but said there was no deadline.