Goa onshore casino operators demand licence fee reduction

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Panaji, April 20 (IANS) Onshore casino operators in Goa have demanded a reduction in the recently proposed hike of annual licence fees, adding that they should also be allowed live gaming permits on par with the offshore casino operators in the coastal state.

Addressing a press conference in Panaji, Kundan Shetye, a partner with Grand 7 casino, demanded that the state government should set up a Gaming Commission at the earliest in order to streamline the casino industry in the state.

“Casino fees should be hiked, but the hike should be proportionate. Currently with the hike in licence fee to the tune of four to five times the existing fee structure will kill the onshore casinos. In comparison, offshore casino annual fee has been hiked only three to four times,” Shetye told reporters, adding that the casino industry had faith in Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar administration, which, he said, would consider their demands.

Goa has seven offshore casinos and nine onshore casinos. While the offshore casinos are parked in the Mandovi river off Panaji, the onshore casinos operate out of five-star hotels and resorts which dot the coastal fringes of the state.

While live gaming is permitted on offshore casinos, onshore or land casinos are only permitted to allow mechanised gaming.

Last month, the state government proposed a hike of annual licence fees of onshore casinos from Rs 8.5 crore (for casinos with gaming area of 1000 sq. mts) to Rs 40 crore, while the fee for offshore casinos were hiked from Rs 12 crore (for vessels with a capacity of 400 passengers) to Rs 40 crore.

Shetye also said that reduction of “licence fees for land-based casinos will provide a level playing field and fair competition against offshore casinos”.

He argued that live gaming was a more attractive proposition for gamblers over mechanised gambling and demanded that onshore casinos should also be allowed to set up live gaming options.

The onshore casino operators also demanded setting up of a Gaming Commission to help regulate the industry.

“We have been demanding the setting up of a Gaming Commission for the last several years now,” Shetye said.

The successive governments, both led by the Congress as well as the BJP, have baulked at the prospects of setting up a Gaming Commission for the last decade, despite making poll promises for setting up a regulatory authority on the lines of the Nevada Gaming Commission which regulates casino operations in Las Vegas.

–IANS

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