Political parties jousting for clout in coming elections are making their commitments known when it comes to operation of legalized gambling institutions in the Goa region of India.
Currently, Goa is one in a handful of regions in India where casino gaming is legal and their operation has been a topic of fierce debate over the last decade. Sikkim and Daman and Diu are also afforded certain operational concessions according to relevant Public Gambling Acts.
Polls will open for the next round of elections in February and March of this year and several parties have flipped from previous positions on the matter in what is seen as an attempt to garner more votes.
Operators stand accused of shorting the government as much as INR45,000 crore, or $6.62 billion, in tax revenue. While tax evasion is the largest of operators’ worries in the eyes of rising political forces, the industry is also criticized by opposition for giving oppportunities for money laundering, drug sales, and prostitution to go on unimpeded.
Currently, Goa has 11 casinos operating within the borders of the coastal state alongside 5 casinos floating offshore. Should casino operations cease, it is estimated that as many as 3 million tourists will be lost annually.
The Congress party and Aam Adami Party (AAP) have made the closure of these casino their top priority as a campaign promise in the coming elections, while the BJP party has done a 180 and advocated for their continued operation.
When the Congress party rose to power in the 1990’s land-based casinos were lauded as a way to increase tourism to the region and generate some much needed tax revenue. The decision was met with resistance, but the casinos remain open to this day. Now, The Congress party has changed its tune and is committing itself to the closure of Casinos if reelected, including any offshore casino operations. The group refers to its favorable outlook on gaming in years past as a “mistake” according to party chief Luizinho Faleiro.
In 2007 the BJP lambasted casinos operating in Goa as dens of corruption and vowed their closure if elected. The party did not win the election in 2007, but continued its assault on the regional government regarding the casinos. In 2012 the party pushed again for casino closure as its campaign headliner. However, after coming to power the party did an about-face attesting the casinos needed to stay open to avoid job loss and decreased tax revenue. An alternative was planned to relocate casinos offshore within four years, but that date has long since passed.
The AAP is not only vehemently against the casino operations in Goa and has taken a staunch position against any illicit activity, including running an intense anti-drug addiction campaign in Punjab. It follows the positioning of the BJP in 2007 and 2012 in insisting it will deconstruct the regions casino operations entirely if elected.
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