Offshore casino in rough waters

Pune – A Mumbai-based company’s plan to set up what was billed as South Asia’s largest offshore casino, Maharaja, at Goa seems to be the first major casualty of the State Government’s decision to stop issuing new licences.

According to sources, the project announced by Pan India Network Infravest Pvt Ltd (PINIPL), the promoters of Playwin lottery, was to have become operational during the later part of this year. A 70-m long Panamanian vessel, costing USD 25million, had been undergoing refurbishment for the purpose.

“As per the Cabinet decision taken last year, only five new licences to set up offshore casinos have been issued. And no licence has been issued to PINIPL,” Mr J.P. Singh, Chief Secretary, Goa, told Business Line. PINIPL officials declined to comment on the matter, merely indicating that an announcement would be made in a fortnight’s time.

In the absence of any statistics on the revenue-generating potential of the off shore casino industry, the State government was adopting a ‘wait and watch policy’ for a year or so before taking a decision on whether to review the matter, he added. It may be recalled that over 20 applications to set up offshore casinos had been received when Goa had announced an open-door policy for licences.

The Boa Sorte — an offshore casino to be operated by the Goa-based Salgaoncar industrial group, due to go on stream in a couple of months — will be the last of five new floating casinos granted licences.

The Advani Pleasure Cruises Pvt Ltd-operated ‘The Carvela’, launched in early 2002, was the first offshore casino in the country, and there was a long breather before 2008 saw some action on this front.

The Hotel Leela Ventures-operated ‘Rio’ became operational in the early part of this year while Goa Coastal Resorts and Recreation Pvt Ltd’s Pride of Goa and the Victor group of Hotels’ Kings Casino commenced subsequently. Casino Royale, operated by High Street Cruises and Entertainment Pvt Ltd that opened in late October, is the latest to join the fleet anchored in the Mandovi River.