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Goa’s land-based casinos want live gaming to offset fee hikes

goa-land-casino-live-gamingLand-based casino operators in the Indian state of Goa are demanding a reduction in recent license fee hikes while simultaneously seeking an expansion of their list of gaming options.

Last month, Goa’s state government approved stiff hikes in license fees and other mandatory payments for both the land-based casinos operating out of hotels and resorts as well as the floating casinos plying their trade on the Mandovi river.

But the land-based operators are crying foul, saying the floating casino fee hikes were proportionally smaller than the hikes imposed on the land-based gaming venues. Last Friday, Grand 7 Casino partner Kundan Shetye told local reporters that he supported the government’s right to impose the hikes, but warned that the proposed land-based fee hikes “will kill the onshore casinos.”

In reality, the government’s new fee structure is based on a sliding scale. For land-based venues, fees increase with the size of their gaming floor, while the floating casino fees increase based on the capacity of the vessels. In each case, the maximum annual fee tops out at Rs400m (US$6m).

Shetye’s argument of a double-standard is based on his claim that the ships “violate the condition of entry of passengers to their vessels … only when the ships touch the seabed, the entries are closed.” Land-based venues have no such overloading option available to them, hence the impression of a fee disparity.

Regardless, Shetye does have a legitimate bone to pick with the disparity of gaming options available to land-based and shipboard casinos. The floating casinos can offer live table games, while land-based venues are restricted to electronic gaming only.

Shetye said he’d have no problem paying the new license fees if land-based casinos were allowed to introduce live table games. Shetye claimed the government could boost its coffers by up to Rs1.5b ($22.6m) “if they do away with this live gaming and electronic gaming differentiation.”

The land-based operators are also pressing the state government to at long last authorize the formation of a proper gaming commission, which they hope will standardize practices and eliminate surprise announcements like the fee hikes. Successive state governments have initially promised to form such a commission, only to reneg on these promises once in office.

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