With the State Legislative Assembly election hardly 10 months away, the Goa government has once again declared that it will notify the Gaming Commission Rules for casinos, which will prevent Goans from entering casinos.
Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, who recently received the file of the draft rules from the Home Department, is on record saying ‘he was studying the same’.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had resolved not only to oust offshore casinos from river Mandovi but also to ban the entry of Goans in casinos as a large number of youth were said to be getting addicted to gambling.
Along with tourists, Goans are also regulars at casinos, say anti-casino groups led by women’s collectives like Bailancho Saad, who have been demanding that casinos be closed by reverting the amendment to Goa Public Gambling (Prevention) Act, which was amended to pave the way for casinos in 1990s. Goa today has 14 onshore and four off-shore casinos in river Mandovi.
The Goa Public Gambling Act was amended by the BJP government soon after coming to power in 2012 for gaming regulator and ban entry of locals, and the then Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar is on record several times including ahead of 2014 Lok Sabha polls that “rules are being framed and the legislation would come into force.” “Will it actually happen now?” ask women activists like Sabina Martins of Bailancho Saad, who have lost trust in this government over casinos and believe that the BJP government has made U-turns on most of its election promises including one on casinos.
“The draft rules have been formulated after taking into account the ill-effects of the casinos on the locals during the past few years,” Mr. Parsekar told The Hindu and went on to add that the decision would be in the interest of all Goan families. The rules will ensure that Goans seeking entry into casinos will have to seek special permission from the Gaming Commissioner, and related applications will be decided on case-to-case basis. A Gaming Commissioner will also be appointed soon as an authority to regulate the casino industry in the State, say sources in the Law Department.
The draft rules also make it mandatory for casino owners to obtain photo identity of the visitors, including tourists visiting the licensed premises of the casinos.
Another contentious issue that anti-casino groups like Goa People’s Forum have been slamming the government is over liberal advertising by casinos in public places.
As per the rules, all the advertisements related to the casino industry, including roadside hoardings and newspaper releases, will have to be routed through the Commissioner who would certify them. Among others, the advertisements by casinos would be scrutinised for making false claims, giving false hopes to the public, etc.
“These rules further make compulsory an arrangement at the reception/ gaming area, which would ensure the video recording of visitors to the licensed premises of the casinos. The casino owners have to ensure that they preserve these CCTV records for a period of 30 days from the end of the respective calendar month.
Following the hike in the entry fee for casinos in the latest State budget, from Rs.700 to Rs.1,000 per person under Entertainment Tax Act, the government will soon implement ticketing through use of electronic fiscal devices, said an official of the Commercial Taxes Department.