‘Over 90% visiting onshore casinos are Goans’

 Over 90% of those gambling at onshore casinos are Goans, say industry insiders, although this figure cannot be corroborated by government statistics as there is no mechanism to keep track of who enters a casino.

"(But) our transaction records, including credit card details and CCTV footage, show very clearly that the number of customers gambling are overwhelming locals," says a South Goa-based insider who has been in the industry for the last seven years.

He points out that the clientele ranges from across the locals social spectrum and includes politicians, doctors, office-goers and students. Both genders are represented, with women gamblers being both, homemakers and employed.

On August 1, the state cabinet approved proposed amendments to the Goa Public Gambling Act, 1976, to empower the government to restrict the entry of Goans and youth under 21 years into casinos. The bill was passed by the state legislative assembly on August 8.

Two months later, the law is yet to be enforced. "The government is yet to frame the rules to implement the bill," a government source said. Differentiating between a local and a tourist, the bill proposes to insert the definition of a tourist "as a person or a group of persons who have attained the age of 21, including pilgrims who are on a visit to Goa and not domiciled or permanently residing in Goa, holding a tourist permit issued under this Act".From p 1

The government has also decided to appoint a gaming commissioner with powers to impose fines and initiate prosecution in case of non-compliance of any rules made by the state government.

Some Goan casino employees are unhappy with the bill saying their employment will get severely affected.

Mazhar Alam, a former general manager in charge of three onshore casinos in Salcete, paints a grim picture about casinos affecting Goans. "Casinos have led to the devastation of Goan families, Goan lifestyle and Goan people and need to be stopped and closed down forever," he had told a press conference recently.

He claimed that "almost 95% of customers gambling at onshore casinos are Goans". "Tourists come for a few days, gamble and leave, but Goans keep returning. Some onshore casinos totally rely on Goan punters for business. So, either the entry fee is waived or is offset with complimentary food and drink. The age profile of gamblers too is seeing more youngsters. I have seen students from colleges in Salcete gambling at casinos, when they should be attending classes," alleged Alam.

"We are totally circumspect about this bill banning Goans from entering casinos," said Sabina Martins, convener, Aam Admi Aurat Against Gambling.

"Firstly, by substituting the lower courts with a gaming commissioner, the government has shielded casinos from the powers of our judicial system in case of any illegalities. Secondly, will the gaming commissioner be a judicial person or a government appointee who will see that the rules preventing Goans from gambling in casinos is enforced? It has been over a decade now that casinos are being allowed to run in Goa, and there is no sign of a gaming commissioner," said Martins. [TOI]