Despite the small numbers, casino operators believe the gaming festival will be good for the gambling industry, since Goa is where most of India’s casinos are based.
Last night, a gambling festival kicked off at Goa’s Casino Royale – and no, James Bond didn’t turn up.
On the plus side, the casino is floating – as are most of Goa’s well-known casinos.
But despite its name, the festival is not really open to the “world” since only Indian nationals can participate. All winnings are paid after deducting taxes as per Indian laws, making it impossible for foreigners to. Participants have to be at least 18 years or older. They will get to try their gambling hand at roulette, Blackjack, Baccarat and poker variations including Texas Hold’em and Indian Flush.
Though gambling remains a taboo in society, it is legal in two Indian states: Goa and the northeastern state of Sikkim. Goa set up its first casino in 1993 and now has around 21, mostly in five-star hotels, says Xavier Vaz, director of Goan Carnival & Leisure Pvt., a company that which manages Casino Carnival, housed in Goa’s Marriott hotel. In Goa, live gambling is not allowed on land. This is why its casinos are housed in boats, most of which float on waterways that run along the state’s largest town. Sikkim legalized casinos more recently.
“Today, the whole casino industry in Goa generates revenue worth 2 billion rupees ($41 million),” says Mr. Vaz. That’s a very small amount, especially considering that in Macau, one of the world’s biggest gambling hubs, the revenue for the month of July alone was around $3 billion dollars.
But the event will hardly be a game-changer for India’s nascent casino industry. Organizers set a modest target of having around 400 participants and were struggling to achieve it. The people who registered mostly included men over the age of 25 and with high disposable income, says Narinder Punj, managing director at the entertainment unit of Delta Corp., the company that runs Goa’s Casino Royale. Not enough of them seemed to be drawn to the event. To attract more participants, organizers even slashed the registration fee from 100,000 rupees ($2053) to just 20,000 rupees. The remaining 80,000 rupees still have to be paid, but at the festival itself.
Despite the small numbers, casino operators believe the gaming festival will be good for the gambling industry, since Goa is where most of India’s casinos are based. “Indians love to gamble,” says Mr. Vaz of Casino Carnival. However, Casino Carnival only gets around a hundred visitors a day. These are mostly businessmen from Delhi, Ahmedabad and Mumbai, says Mr. Vaz.
One of the reasons for the low attendance is the high entry fee, says Mr. Vaz. The government has prescribed a fee of as much as 2,000 rupees ($40) per individual, to enter a casino. Also, not everyone likes gambling on floating casinos. “Some people don’t like gaming on boats. It also becomes difficult during monsoons,” says Mr. Vaz.
Mr. Vaz thinks the government should do more to help the industry grow. “Instead of letting them gamble abroad and lose money, the government should support the industry here,” he adds. Removing the minimum entry fee would be a good start, he says.
Compare Goa to Singapore: the casino industry has been booming in the city-state ever since it was legalized there in early 2010.
But for India, that still seems like a distant dream. “The casino gaming industry is in its infancy in India,” says Tango Wangyal, partner at Casino Sikkim at the Royal Plaza hotel. Casino Sikkim opened in 2009 and was the first casino in the state Sikkim. He thinks that Goa’s World Gaming Festival weekend is a positive for this industry, and will inspire other Indian casinos to follow. “We will surely be having one (in Sikkim),” says Mr. Wangyal.
Readers, do you think restrictions on gambling should be loosened in India? Share your views in the Comments section.
Via: India Real Time