Nine years after getting adopted by the Legal Assembly, and more than a year after coming into force, the ban on Goa inhabitants to enter gambling establishments is still missing rules for its implementation. In the meantime, the state’s gambling legislation gets its penalty sections amended. Experts and studies might provide the explanation behind these events.
Notification of Rules Not Really Expected Soon
In August 2012, the Goa Legislative Assembly adopted a ban on locals entering the state’s land and vessel-based casino establishments, but left it to the government to notify when the provision should come into force. Such a notification eventually came and non-tourist casino entry was to become effective as of February 1, 2020. Now, more than a year later, no rules to check if Goans are visiting casinos have been framed and notified yet.
The coastal state government has appointed the commissioner of commercial tax to undertake the capacity of gaming commissioner as required by the Goa Public Gambling (Amendment) Bill (Bill No. 21 of 2012). Nevertheless, sources from the home department have implied that it is not very likely that the rules will be finalized and notified during the present government’s tenure.
The current Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has stated that until the rules are notified, no tourist will be denied entry to the casinos, but measures would be undertaken if locals are found gambling inside the licensed gaming houses. In the meantime, the crest of the second wave of Covid-19 that swept through the country in April and May forced the Goa government to close the state’s casinos on May 9.
The recent Goa Public Gambling (Amendment) Bill (Bill No. 42 of 2021) updated the penalties for organizing or gambling in non-licensed or public locations increasing the financial sanctions and stipulating that an offender may be punished with imprisonment, or a fine, or both. The minimal monetary penalty was raised threefold to ₹ 3,000, and the maximum sanction became ₹ 7,000.
The Gaming Commissioner’s Powers
The still not functional 2012 amendment to the Goa Public Gaming Act requires visitors to the state to acquire “tourist permits” from the gaming commissioner, or from agents appointed by him, if they desire to enter areas designated for gambling.
The amendment entrusts the state’s gaming commissioner with vast powers including the right to order closure or seal any five-star hotel casino and to take custody of any casino vessel. The commissioner is also responsible for the exercising of overall control over the games played in the designated gambling areas and to keep and maintain the documents and records related to them.
The Ban: A Political Measure with Controversial Effects
The ban for local citizens to enter casinos is a political answer to the demands of certain society groups and organizations which allege casinos as bringers of sin. According to legal experts, however, this ban may be found unconstitutional. Moreover, the enforcement of such a measure is expected to bring a chain reaction of negative effects: increase of corruption, fake ID fabrication, establishment of channels for well-connected Goans or people of substantial political or economic weight to gain sneaky entry.
A recently published analysis on Goa’s casino communities quoting SevenJackpots’ proprietary geographical Google Analytics data established that the coastal state’s inhabitants have a double presence on Adda52, Purewin.com and other online casino sites for the size of its population. For comparison, Andhra Pradesh with its population of 53.9 million (2019 estimates) generates 2.7 per cent of organic search traffic, while Goa accounts for 2.0 per cent of the traffic with just 1.5 million inhabitants.
An exploratory study from 2019 on the prevalence, patterns, and correlates of gambling behaviors in men with 1514 respondents from the state of Goa found that 45.4 per cent of all participants (658 respondents) had gambled within the course of the past year. Lottery was the most frequent form of betting with 67.8 per cent (446 respondents), and 52.3 per cent of all surveyed Goans, or 344 men, admitted to having played illegal Matka.
More than 2 out of every 5 gamblers in the state (39.5 per cent or 136 respondents) participated in illegal draws that happen outside licensed casinos more than once a month and up to three times per week.