Casino industry integral and indispensable to Goa’s tourism: Shrinivas Nayak

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As casinos prepare to open in Goa early next month, Shrinivas Nayak, MD Majestic Pride Group is hopeful of complete market support in terms of footfall and revenue from the first week itself. According to him, the moment casinos open their gates the players will be back in full swing.

“Online casino games may have picked up during the lockdown phases but once the casinos open, people will come back to the tables because that is where they prefer playing their games,” he said.

Talking of opening casinos again after they shut down in April this year due to the second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic, Nayak said that safety maintenance is on their priority list and will continue to be so as and when people come back to the casinos.

“My staff is 100 percent vaccinated and when it comes to vaccination we have also ensured that the ones not directly related to the casino but working for us indirectly be it the taxi drivers, the boat service providers, and others are also vaccinated. When the casinos open we will abide by all safety norms like social distancing, use of masks and sanitizers and that is the only way to keep Goa and all the casinos safe,” said Nayak.

While Nayak is not ruling out the dilemmas and suspicions that customers might have in the first few first days he is confident that the situation will be normalized when they walk into a safe space where they are assured of complete protocol maintenance.

While the Goa government doesn’t permit entry without a vaccination certificate or RTPCR negative test, casinos will also check the necessary documents, said Nayak.

While Nayak is confident that online casino games will see a drop in demand once casinos open up, does he believe casinos that are generally categorized as games of luck are harmful and addictive?

No, he doesn’t.

“If games of chances are addictive, so are games of skills. There are recreational games that were banned by the government when they banned Chinese apps but users continued to find ways to play them and that is an addiction. There is a huge opportunity and potential in the casino industry which is underutilized at the moment in the country,” said Nayak.

Talking of potential he said, “Casinos don’t operate only in Goa and Sikkim. These are the only states where they are legally played. Every state has it but it is not monitored. Once legalized the industry can be monitored and controlled by the authority. Legalization will come with other major benefits like revenue generation and employment. Unfortunately, those working in the unorganized rather illegal casinos are not protected by the labor laws while those working with brands like ours are. Hence legalization is the need of the hour.”

Nayak brings up the example of Vegas in the 18th and early 19th century when it was unregulated and how the scene saw a complete change once it was legalized driving revenues for the state and generating a huge income from tourism too.

“Somebody should do a formal survey to find out a total of how many people total got negatively impacted from casinos and also compare it to the number of people who have directly or indirectly gained from it. We should not go with the same old rhetoric without scientific backing,” Nayak said.

“Diabetes kills thousands of people every year in the country but do we shut down all sugar mills and candy shops? We don’t. So these rules shouldn’t apply to casinos as well,” he added.

Nayak recalls how the casino industry in Goa drew from being an add-on service in five-star hotels to an integral part of leisure tourism. While he advocates the legalization of casinos throughout the country he also supports the entry barriers in the industry in the form of high license fees imposed by the government.

According to him, the license fees help the government to keep a check on operators entering the business and allow only serious investors with proper credentials to enter the market.