The Easter day serial bombings in Sri Lanka, which has crippled the tourism-driven island nation, is likely to divert most of the casino tourists to Goa, say industry sources. The tiny Goa is home to six offshore casinos besides several gaming centres at star hotels and competes with those in Sri Lanka where gaming enthusiasts used to get diverted before the bombings, which were targeted at churches and five-star hotels killing over 250 people.
This led the national administration of the island declaring a state of emergency in the Buddhist nation, crippling the all-important tourism sector. It can be noted that Goa and the Himalayan state of Sikkim are the only two places where gambling and casinos are legally permitted in the country. But in Goa, both the industry are not allowed to operate on-shore.
"The bombings and the resultant situation on the tourism front in Sri Lanka will increase the footfalls into Goan casinos which offer live gaming facilities," Narinder Punj, chief advisor at Golden Globe Hotels told PTI. The company has upgraded its existing vessel with a large ship which was launched Thursday in the Mandovi river.
"We will definitely get 75 percent of the casino players going to Sri Lanka to come to Goa. Since the serial bombings, we have had several inquiries from various groups who want to re-route and come to Goa," he said. Goa's offshore casino industry in the past could not compete with their Lankan counterparts which were offering the best in the world in terms in terms of cost and other facilities, Punj said.
Echoing similar views, Srinivas Nayak, a director at Casino Pride that owns two vessels, said the Lankan terror attacks is definitely going to benefit Goan casinos. "Those crowd interested in gaming and were planning to go to Sri Lanka will now come to Goa, as we offer similar services now," Nayak said, adding however the benefit would be for the short-term as situation in Lanka is normalising fast.
The Goan casino industry has been facing strong opposition from the public in recent years, but despite that, it has been growing. Punj said the number of people visiting casinos have been on the rise, but the increased licence fee has pushed the industry into the red now.
"Our industry has grown from single vessel with 15 tables to the current strength of six ships with around 600 tables," he said, adding as much as 99 percent of the footfalls are Indians but not even 0.5 percent of them are local Goans. "The Goan administration has stalled the issuing new licences now though there is a provision for six more licences," Punj said, adding if the licence fee is not increased further there is room for growth and the industry can somehow sustain..
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