Minister Michael Lobo to ask Goa CM Pramod Sawant to reopen casinos at 50% capacity

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Goa’s Minister for Science and Technology Michael Lobo on Wednesday said he will ask chief minister Pramod Sawant to permit casinos to resume operations at least at 50 percent capacity by following all the Covid protocols.

“If casinos restart their operations, it will help increase the number of tourists visiting Goa and revive the sector,” Lobo said, according to a Times of India report. He also pointed out that many locals are facing economic losses due to the tourism sector being hit by the pandemic.

“I want to make another demand before the Goa government. Many tourists go to the casinos and today they are shit. They should be opened at 50 percent capacity, by putting in place all the covid protocols. The number of tourists coming to Goa will go up if the casinos begin operating again,“ asserted Lobo.

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Highlighting the plight of self-employed and educated youth in the tourism sector who have had to take pay-cuts owing to the hotel industry radically cutting down rates, he said, “To help start all these businesses again, we need to start all the other activities related to tourism, like waterspouts, by following covid safety precautions.”

He also welcomed the decision to allow vaccinated people to enter Goa.

“The tourism industry can start operating again now. Six months the tourism industry was shut. Making RT-PCT certificate mandatory led to a stop in tourists coming to Goa. The common Goans suffered as they could no pay their installments to the banks. Some had set up a small restaurant or had bought a new car or taxi. Banks were hounding them for loan installments,” said Lobo.

Rules for locals entering Goa’s casinos yet to framed

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.

The state government had notified the Goa Public Gaming (Amendment) Act, 2012, to ban the entry of Goans into the six offshore and nine onshore casinos in the state from February 1, 2020, and appointed the commissioner of commercial tax as the gaming commissioner, to keep a check on whether Goans were gambling at the casinos.

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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.