Commission may monitor Goa's casinos

Commission may  monitor  Goa

The unshackled run of Goa's casino industry for more than a decade could just come to an end next month. It had to take a death to bring this about....

The unshackled run of Goa's casino industry for more than a decade could just come to an end next month. It had to take a death to bring this about. According to Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, a gaming commission to regulate operations of both onshore and offshore casinos will ensure that the gambling operations play by the rules defined by the state and not by the 'house', a term conventionally used to describe a casino's back-end operation. Speaking to IANS on the sidelines of a government function, Parrikar said that the long-awaited commission would be "ready by August". Though the commission was announced in 2010, it did not gain steam under the Congress government which was in power then, nor under the BJP-led coalition government that came to power in 2012, despite consistent demands from civil society groups.It took the death of 20-year-old Sai Dhanush, a lad from Hyderabad Sunday, which now appears to have given some momentum to forming the gaming commission. Dhanush, who by the existing laws should have been barred from entering casinos in Goa (entry under the age of 21 is barred), fell from a second level of an offshore casino vessel and was drowned. A senior official at the state secretariat said that the commission would be set up on the lines of the Nevada Gaming Commission that regulates gambling in the world's casino capital Las Vegas. "It will be a body which will act as a regulator, which will evolve casino norms on a par with world standards and through constant checks and inspections ensure that the norms are followed. It will also have penalizing powers," said an official who is involved in drafting the parameters of the regulatory body. The official also said that the commission would also specify a minimum payout ratio, a key to casino operations worldwide. A payout ratio is used to determine how much money a game of chance - like roulette - offers to gamblers in comparison to the money earned by the 'house'. "Every casino operation will have to give an undertaking in writing about the payout ratio and the commission will ensure that it is maintained," the official said, adding that the casino industry in Goa would be taken into confidence before the commission is set up. Currently, there is no government system to oversee the ratio of monies won by gamblers in comparison to the money netted by the casino operators. "No gaming commissioner appointed and no mechanism in place to check illegalities suggests that the government is in connivance with casino owners in the illegal transactions," convener of Aam Aurat aur Aadmi against Gambling (AAAG) Sabina Martins claims. Goa has four functioning offshore casinos parked in the Mandovi River and nearly a dozen onshore casinos housed in the numerous five-star resorts dotting the beach state. The first offshore casino in Goa started operations in 2001.
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