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India Wants to Attract Tourists with Floating Casinos

The state of Andhra Pradesh is allegedly considering floating casinos as a way of recouping revenue loss caused by a prolonged coronavirus lockdown. Goa already hosts offshore live casinos in the River Mandovi, where casinos are up against the clock. Temporary stays of operation have so far been extended, but there are no talks of long-term solutions for these drifting attractions.

In Andhra Pradesh, the hope is that quick coastline casinos could bring in much-needed earnings. Increases in pandemic numbers may put an urgency on this hope as India saw an extension to lockdown precautions in response to a peak in September.

The Beginnings of a Plan

Gambling laws in India vary from state to state, with thirteen states organizing lotteries and only two legalizing casinos. Just recently, Andhra Pradesh amended their State Gambling Laws to widen criminalization. All online gambling, including online slot casino, poker, and betting, will be outlawed and organizers, as well as players, could be subject to fines or imprisonment.

There’s no official word that the government in Andhra Pradesh will instead be investing in local gambling establishments, but two anonymous sources within the state said they were aware of developments similar to those in Goa.

A Temporary Solution

Goa and Sikkim are the only states in India that currently have live casino operators working within state borders. Goa’s floating casinos received a six-month stay of execution in September giving the government more time to decide how to proceed.

Panaji, the Goa capital city where much of the on-shore activity from the casinos centers, made a statement last October promising a non-renewal of the licenses, but the coronavirus has the ships anchored for now.
Getting Back to Business

One of the sources that wished to remain unnamed is a government official who spoke to Indian media about the state’s plan: “The state needs revenue and has reached out to the Centre for these floating casinos off the Visakhapatnam coast.” With the ever-decreasing revenue from goods and services tax (GST) and little room for international tourism solutions amidst the lockdown, a push for coastline casinos could boost state tourism. “The state doesn’t have any resources, hence this initiative," said the unnamed source.

A second source who also wished to remain anonymous said, “Offshore casino is being explored for some time now. Andhra Pradesh needs revenue and has a huge coastline that can be leveraged for promoting tourism.”

Stuck--For Now

The floating casinos in the River Mandovi now have until March 2021 before they face licensing issues, but the political air in Goa regarding their presence is tense. Officials have oscillated on finding permanent locations for the off-shore casinos, both on water and on land.

Set Sail

Panaji Mayor, Uday Madkaikar, has been steadfast on the decision to reject the renewal of the casinos’ trade licenses while Ports Minister, Michael Lobo, has made efforts to find an indefinite mooring for the ships. Some of the proposed areas would take years to develop, however, and while they wait for resolution operators are still caught in a stalemate.

If Andhra Pradesh were to follow in Goa’s footsteps and legalize casino services within their borders, perhaps those operators could find a new berth on the Coromandel coast. The Corporation of the City of Panaji doesn’t want the riverside gambling or the social disruptions that it brings ashore, so maybe officials in the south-eastern state of Andhra Pradesh could make the most of the business it may bring instead.

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