Goa Government would grant licenses to five more offshore casinos

With floating casinos proving to be a “vital cash-cow” for the state’s exchequer, the Goa government is all set to become a gambler’s paradise on the lines of Las Vegas. The state cabinet has agreed “in-principle” to award another five licenses to float offshore casinos.

Currently, the state has two offshore casinos, while the third is expected to start operations this month. Following this significant development, the tourist state will now have a total of eight casinos floating on Goan waters. This development is expected to boost the state’s tourism industry, according to the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI).

The Goa government has also announced it its budget declared recently to levy additional fee of Rs one lakh to hotels having casino licenses. “The cabinet has approved ‘in-principle’ to grant five more licenses to operate offshore casinos in the state,” Goa’s Chief Secretary, J P Singh disclosed. He said that proposals have come from several countries, as well as existing five-star hotels to start such casino-vessels, but declined to disclose the names.

However, sources informed TravelBiz Monitor that casinos players like Goa Coastal Resorts and Recreation Pvt. Ltd., Victor Hotels and Motels Ltd. (both from Goa), Cannosa Investment (Hong Kong), Recreation Centre (Nepal) have submitted proposals and the received the ‘in principle’ approval. Apart from that, Creative Gaming Solutions Pvt. Ltd., UB Infrastructure Projects Ltd., Herald Publications Pvt. Ltd., Highstreet Cruises and Entertainment Pvt. Ltd., V M Salgaoncar and Bro Pvt. Ltd. and Hotel Leela Ventures Ltd. from India and Clermont Leisure, Victoria Club (both from United Kingdom) are in the fray for seeking permission to start floating casinos.

It may be noted that the state government had introduced a bill in 1999 to amended the Goa Public Gambling Act, 1976, adding one line to the existing section, which had already authorized games of electronic amusement and slot machines in five-star hotels. The insertion to this line stated that it would also “authorize table games and gaming on board vessels operating offshore, subject to conditions.”

The state government, according to Singh, has received immense response for opening new casinos. “We have received a total of 15 applications for fresh licenses to operate floating casinos, but only five licenses have been approved,” informed Singh. According to Ralph de Souza, President of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG), the concept of offshore casinos has further boosted the state’s economy.

It will attract high spending tourists rather than depending all the time on ‘cheap tourists’ Goa gets from charters or otherwise. TTAG believes that such facilities has a demand for ‘upmarket tourists.’ “These casinos have also increased number of tourists, both domestic and international visiting the state,” de Souza maintained.

Currently there are two offshore casinos – Advani Group’s, M V Caravella and Leela Hotel’s, M V Leela. The third floating casino, Maharajah of Creative Gaming Solutions, a subsidiary of the Mumbai-based Pan India Network Infravest Pvt. Ltd. is expected to commence operations from this month. Interestingly, Maharaja will offer all international casino games like American Roulette, Black Jack and variants of Poker. According to sources, each table will have a ‘no-limits’ betting system and the ship will have a cash chest of us$ one million on board.

The offshore casinos operators are charging an entry fee in the range of USD 87.62 to USD 187.7 per person, which includes complimentary drinks and snacks. The entry fee allows customers to play their bets. “We receive domestic, as well as foreign clients to play on board, but there are more high-end foreign tourists between November and January. In the monsoon season, we get only domestic clientele,” said an official of Caravela, who refused to be named.

The Goa government in 2005 had increased the annual fee from Rs one crore to Rs five crore to carry out operations for off-shore casinos. The decision, informed Singh, was taken after the state received numerous enquiries, including international on setting-up offshore casinos. “This will attract a different segment of people, who never come down to Goa, helping the state’s economy, as well as hotels,” opined Manguirish Pai Raikar, VP of GCCI.