Casinos protest hike in entry fee, to shut business tomorrow



Panaji: Offshore and onshore casinos in the state have decided to shut down their operations tomorrow in protest against sharp rise in the entry fee imposed by the state government.

Addressing a press conference, the casino operators said their average business has dropped by over 50 per cent as the customers are unwilling to pay the huge entry fee.

The Goa government in its recent budget had hiked the entry fee for casinos from Rs 200 to Rs 2,000 claiming that such an increase would discourage youngsters from gambling.

"The government is all set to drive away casino industry which is contributing substantially to the state's economy," Casino Association of Goa spokesman Narinder Punj alleged.

Six offshore and 11 land-based casinos are participating in the protest.

Punj said nowhere in the world would one see such a steep hike in the fees.

"We were not passing on the entry fee burden to the customers when it was Rs 200, but now its difficult for us to bear the fees. We have to pass it on to the customers who find it expensive," Srinivas Nayak of 'Casino Pride' said.

The casino operators said since the implementation of revised fees, the business has gone down by 90 per cent in south Goa and 50 per cent in North Goa.

Punj said if the status quo continues, it would be difficult for the casinos to continue their operations in Goa.

"They will fade away," he said, claiming that casinos provide direct employment to 2,000 youths and indirect living for 10,000 people in the state.

"If casino industry is allowed to prosper without any hindrances, it can generate revenue to the tune of Rs 70 crore in form of taxes," John snowball, general manager, Maharajah Casino, an initiative of Essel group, said.

Maharajah is awaiting its gaming licence even as its ship is anchored in the Mandovi river.

Snowball said the company will have to shelve some of its plans if situation continues like this.

The offshore casino operators said there is no more scope for the casinos in the state and they have not been able to attract clients from destinations like Macau.

"Goa is not a hardcore gaming destination. People play here to experience," Punj said.

He said only 10 per cent of the total clientele comprises of locals, while rest are from other states of India.

"Unfortunately, we have no foreign tourists gaming here," Punj said.

Bureau Report