Speculating Casino luck for tourism prosperity

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Used for indicative purpose only

Successive state governments in the hill state have been trying to promote Eco and Adventure tourism. As per them these formats of tourism could increase numbers and revenues for both public and government exchequer. However besides the organic growth per annum, nothing out of the box could ever get delivered till date from the exercise. Yet year after year in every budget speech successive Chief Ministers have announced promotion of either ‘Ecological’ or ‘Adventure’ based tourism as their game changer plan. Though the evident truth remains that 17% of the total hill state budget goes in repayment of loans and their interests and tourism based revenue could not become a game changer as been claimed or expected. ‘Out of the box thinking is required to promote tourism,” had stated Vikramaditya Singh first time MLA. In his first speech at the Himachal Vidhan Sabha, the young turk had batted strongly for a concept like Casinos to be introduced in the state.

According to experts Casinos hold a niche market in the country. Despite the existing prohibitive legislations, there is extensive illegal gambling throughout the country. The Indian gambling market is estimated to be worth US$60 billion per year, of which about half is illegally bet. Currently there are only 22 casinos across the Nation. Therefore in dearth of numbers and increasing demand, the concept could grasp roots leaps and bounds faster than ‘Eco’ or ‘Adventure’ tourism.

Moreover with a varied territory Himachal state has scope to promote all concepts of tourism. Religious, Ecological and adventure based tourism is a natural belonging for the state. Wherein the land based terrain could promote these formats, water bodies could be used to flourish Casinos. The fact remains that despite efforts in 50 years the tourism growth per annum could not touched double digits for the reason that the required supportive infrastructure is either not created or is not possible/very expensive to create due to the hilly topographic condition. Therefore destination based tourism (Casinos) could hold the key for the hill state.

Currently only 3 states viz. Goa, Sikkim and Daman legally allow casinos.  There are two casinos in Sikkim called Casino Sikkim and Casino Mahjong and 10 in Goa, of which six are land based and four are floating casinos that operate on the Mandovi River. The floating casinos in Goa are Casino Deltin Royale, Casino Deltin Jaqk, Casino Pride and Casino Pride 2. While the first two are controlled by the Deltin Group, the latter two are managed by the Pride Group. According to the Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act, 1976 casinos can be set up only at five star hotels or offshore vessels with the prior permission of the government. This has led the Deltin Group to open the first land based Casino in Daman which is open now. News reports suggest that Visakhapatnam is also being looked on as the next casino destination.

Critics of gambling claim that it leads to crime, corruption and money laundering, while proponents of regulated gambling argue that it can be a huge source of revenue for the state. As per data Casinos contribute close to 135 crores for the Goa state revenue in 2013. The number is increasing year after year and is expected to reach more than 150 crores in 2018-19. Gambling is a state subject, and they are entitled to formulate laws for gambling activities within their respective states. The Public Gambling Act of 1867 is a central law that prohibits running or being in charge of a public gaming house. The penalty for breaking this law is a fine of ₹200 or imprisonment of up to 3 months. Additionally, this Act prohibits visiting gambling houses. A fine of ₹100 or imprisonment of up to one month is the penalty.

Indian law classifies games into two broad categories viz. game of skill and game of chance. The Supreme Court of India has, for instance, held that ‘The game of Rummy is not a game entirely of chance like the ‘three-card’ game mentioned in the Madras case to which we were referred. The ‘three card’ game which goes under different names such as ‘flush’, ‘brag’ etc. is a game of pure chance. Rummy, on the other hand, requires a certain amount of skill because the fall of the cards has to be memorized and the building up of Rummy requires considerable skill in holding and discarding cards. We cannot, therefore, say that the game of Rummy is a game of entire chance. It is mainly and preponderantly a game of skill had stated the learned court.

Taken from a news report it’s clear that even the Karnataka tourism department is pushing a proposal to promote offshore casinos and cruise arguing it will boost tourism and allow the government to earn revenue and generate jobs. It has proposed to allow offshore casinos which could operate from a yacht off the coast where entry is restricted to foreign tourists.

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