Three years after Goa appointed a dedicated Gaming Commissioner to oversee the state’s casinos, official rules designed to streamline and regulate casino operations are finally ready for approval according to a report by the Times of India.
The Home Department has now finalized its casino rules and submitted them to Chief Minister Pramod Sawant for final approval – a significant step forward in regulating the casino industry.
Despite appointing the Gaming Commissioner more than three years ago in March 2019, the absence of any framed rules has until now meant that his duties were not defined. The rules are necessary to implement the controversial ban on locals from entering the casinos. The Bombay High Court in October last year had upheld the ban on locals.
Once approved, the gaming commissioner under the Goa Public Gambling (Amendment) Act, 2012 will assume full control over Goa’s casino operations, including its six offshore casinos, including licensing, tax collection, and the issuance of entry tickets to customers and what games can be offered. He will also have the ability to seal casinos for violations.
In October, agreeing with the arguments of the State, the division bench of Bombay High Court held that the classification of goans and non-residents under the 2012 law is justifiable. “So far as the restriction on entry into casinos to the persons domiciled or permanent residents of Goa as against the permitting entry to tourists and tourist permit holders, is justifiable for the reasons advanced by the State of Goa. Based on such reasons a valid classification has been made and such classification has rational nexus with the object that the law seeks to achieve,” reads the judgement. The Court also held that game activities on casinos are like gambling and cannot be termed as trade or business activity for protection under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution that deals with freedom to practice any trade or profession.
“It is in the public interest of residents of Goa so also in the interest of State for the justifiable reasons. Thus, the decision to prohibit entry for the persons other than the tourist which excludes persons domiciled or permanent residents of Goa is a conscious decision of the State, considering its evil consequences on its subject,” reads the judgement delivered in October.