Delta Corp subsidiary receives CRZ clearance for operating offshore casino, SC disposes off appeal against NGT Order

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A Supreme Court division bench of Justices Vikram Nath and Rajesh Bindal today disposed of an appeal filed by Deltin Caravela (Highstreet Cruises and Entertainment Private Limited), a subsidiary of listed gaming and casino operator Delta Corp Limited against an April 2022 order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that had asked the casino operator to cease operating Deltin Caravela (now known as Kings casino) until it receives Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance from the Coastal Zone Management Authority (CZMA).

Based on a plea filed by social activist Kashinath Shetye, the NGT had by an order dated 27th April, 2022 directed Deltin Caravela to restrain its operations as it fell under the category of waterfront and foreshore facilities.

Aggrieved by the order of the NGT, the company had filed an appeal in the Supreme Court, which had on 13th May, 2022 stayed the future operation of the order of the NGT. In November, 2023, after conducting detailed survey and examining documents, the Goa CZMA granted CRZ approval to the six offshore casinos, including Deltin Caravela (Kings Casino) stationed in River Mandovi near Panjim. The coastal body had in April 2023 granted in-principle approval to the offshore casinos to operate in the River Mandovi, subject to a detailed Environmental Assessment Impact (EIA) report.

Senior Counsel Nikhil Sakhardande appearing on behalf of Deltin Caravela informed the Supreme Court today that matter had become academic and infructuous as the company had obtained CRZ permission from the relevant authority enabling it to continue its operations in accordance with the NGT order. Recording these facts, the Supreme Court accordingly disposed off the appeals filed by the Delta Corp subsidiary.

The CRZ permission and disposal of the appeal comes as a reprieve to the embattled casino industry in Goa, bringing closure to allegations of violations of environmental norms that had surfaced against the industry. The casino industry, however, has been facing a crisis after implementation of the 28% GST on purchase of chips from 1st October, 2023, besides retrospective tax dues of tens of thousands of crores on face value of every bet from July 2017 onwards.

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