Casinos have taken strong roots in Goa in recent years, as the state government continues to actively promote casino tourism in a bid to boost the economic growth of the Indian state. The transition to the digital environment, however, is inevitable as online casinos like PureWin.com start taking over the land-based market, replacing fancy table setups with virtual environments that allow players to enjoy their online roulette games from the comforts of their own homes.
Coliform level ‘alarming high’ in Goa’s Mandovi river
Chief ministers in Goa, along with other officials, have long acknowledged the positive and negative impact of gambling in the state. As it is set up right now, the casino industry in the state is perceived to be posing “unhealthy” effects not just for Goa’s tourism, but also for the society as a whole.
The so-called societal costs not only cover liquor, prostitution, and drugs—there’s also the environmental threat. ENV Media’s “Overview of Goa’s casino communities” pointed out that “ruining the Mandovi landscape” is one of the long-standing concerns brought on by casino establishments in the state.
“River traffic volumes have been constantly higher since the existence of floating casinos. Ensuing environmental problems are easy to trace against permitted ecological limits and acceptable standards,” according to the ENV Media report. “Claims by the Goa authorities that casino vessels respect current ecological regulations implicitly transfers the responsibility onto those same public institutions which failed to build better water purification infrastructure or impose more stringent waste disposal requirements.”
ENV Media’s analysis is backed by a study by the Goa State Pollution Control Board, which confirmed that the Mandovi river—host to six offshore casinos at the moment—is “full of bacterial contamination.”
The board stated: “The coliform bacteria content in the water is alarmingly high. The water is full of bacterial contamination which makes it unsafe for recreational bathing, water sports and fishing.”
Online casino shift can solve Goa’s water situation
Despite the mounting concerns that land-based and offshore casinos pose to Goa’s resident communities, the state government remains reluctant to shut them down. In February, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant granted another six-month extension for the six casino vessels operating in the state to remain on the Mandovi river. The extension gives the offshore casinos a reprieve—at least until September 30—as the government continues to debate whether to move them onshore.
Casinos in the state, however, spent much of 2020—and well into 2021—closed as the surge in COVID-19 related cases in Goa continues. Still, the government is reluctant to shut them down for good—and it boils down to one thing: tax revenue.
If that’s the case, the state government should start re-evaluating the gambling regulations that will pave the way for the entry of online casino platforms in Goa—with a goal of growing the state revenues even as the COVID lockdown remains in place. The pandemic has shown that consumers, especially in mobile-first India, are making the digital shift and are now doing their daily activities—from work, study, shopping, and casual entertainment—in the safety of their homes.
“The Covid-19 pandemic may have given the decisive push in many industries. While tourism stands to improve in Goa, its gambling fame might just be brought onto a new level with online gambling. Goa might push for more online gamers and next-gen revenue streams instead of pushing for rich tourists (and trying to discriminate against locals or humble desi gamblers),” the ENV Media report noted.