Ban on locals visiting casinos to protect them from ‘vices’: Goa govt to HC

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Goa government’s Advocate General Devidas Pangam on Monday told the High Court of Bombay at Goa that the current law that bans locals from visiting offshore and onshore casinos is a mechanism to prevent them from its ‘vices’.

Pangam also argued, during the hearing of a writ petition challenging the state government’s law preventing entry of locals into casinos, that there is a ‘reasonable distinction’ between Goans and non-Goans.

“This is a reasonable distinction we have made to protect the Goan people from the vices of this casino. It (restriction) has been there for a long time… We are doing it for the welfare of the people and to avoid any loss to the people of Goa,” he told the Bench, according to a report in The Herald.

Petitioner Shukra Usgaonkar argued that banning Goas, based on discrimination between locals and non-locals, from visiting casinos is a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution, The law, which came into effect in February 2020 after it was amended in 2012, should be quashed, he demanded.

Pangam countered saying the amendment to the Goa Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act was in violation of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.

“It is in accordance with the Indian Constitution,” he stated.

The Bench reserved the order after hearing arguments of both parties.

Gaming rules to ban entry of locals in Goa casinos yet to be framed by state government

Despite the pandemic-induced moratorium imposed by the state on Goa’s casinos for over a year now, the government has still not devised any mechanism and rules to determine if Goans are visiting them.

A senior home department official, according to a Times of India report, said that there has been no progress in finalizing the gaming rules. According to sources, rules can only be finalized and notified during the current government’s tenure if the home department speeds up the process. Once the rules are finalized, the law department will have to vet them.

In April, the state government had directed Goa’s casino industry to stop operations as a part of the strategy to contain the Covid-19 outbreak.

CM Pramod Sawant had said that till the rules are notified, tourists will not be barred from entering the casinos however, action would be taken if Goans are caught gambling at the casinos. The act stipulates that the gaming commissioner has to issue a ‘tourist permit’, authorizing tourists to enter the areas reserved for gambling.