Goa's way is forward: Here's why it's time for Goa to embrace online casinos



Goa's way is forward: Here's why it's time for Goa to embrace online casinos

Goa’s casino tourism is still in its nascent stages, yet state officials already want to reinvent the tourism profile as it rebuilds towards becoming a tourism destination targeting “wealthy tourists only.”

Officials want Goa to return to 1960s

For years, the state government of Goa has been actively promoting casino tourism to give its economy a shot in the arm after the high courts banned iron ore mining in 2012. Taking a cue from its Asian neighbors, the Goa government is pushing to expand its casino offerings to potentially attract tourists who otherwise might not consider visiting the state.

In May 2020, Tourism Minister Manohar Ajgaonkar was quoted by media saying the state is looking at reinventing itself “to bring about the Goa of the 1960s,” and appeal to more wealthy tourists over budget and local tourists. “Only tourists who are wealthy and can honour Goa’s culture and beauty are desirable,” the minister said, according to local reports.

The irony here is that it’s the hippie community that placed Goa in the international map in the 1960s, and the existence of casinos—both land-based and offshore—has boosted the state’s popularity in the years since they were allowed to operate. But the coronavirus pandemic has dampened the wins this sector has achieved in recent years, while also opening a path towards new revenue streams for operators and the government. As the ENV Media report on Goa’s casino communities pointed out:

“The Covid-19 pandemic may have given the decisive push in many industries. While tourism stands to improve in Goa, its gambling fame might just be brought onto a new level with online gambling. Goa might push for more online gamers and next-gen revenue streams instead of pushing for rich tourists (and trying to discriminate against locals or humble desi gamblers),” according to analysts at ENV Media, the media company behind the SevenJackpots casino comparison site.

COVID highlights why it’s time for Goa to embrace online casinos

The tourism minister’s paradoxical statement was made in 2020, way before the ill-effects of the coronavirus pandemic hit the global economy. In Goa, all casinos—six casino vessels on Mandovi River, plus one off in the state capital in Panaji, and about a dozen others operating inside hotels—were forced to shut down as the pandemic made its presence known in the country.

There were attempts to reopen the state, but it was only in mid-September that the government allowed key tourism activities to resume, albeit with some caveats: Tourists and locals could only enter if they were “either fully vaccinated or those with a RTPCR report.” Goa casinos, meanwhile, were allowed to operate up to 50 percent of their capacity, and they must implement COVID safety protocols including use of masks, sanitisers, and thermal screening, among others.

The impact of reopening casinos is yet to be seen, but one thing is clear—the state isn’t utilizing all the possible revenue streams available to them. For instance, the pandemic has already shown that more and more consumers are now turning to digital environments as they go about their daily activities including playing casual entertainment games.

What the government of Goa needs is to also make a shift towards a regulated online environment, that will involve development, technical support, higher taxation and related revenue, which will bring more benefits for the state and its residents in the long run.