Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has announced that casinos in the state can reopen from today.
The decision was based on the positivity rate report over the last two to three weeks, which has been under 2%. Dr Shekhar Salkar, a member of the expert committee, argued the reopening of casinos and other businesses was recommended in compliance with all Covid safety protocols and regulations.
Tourists and locals will be allowed entry under the condition of being fully vaccinated, or if they provide an RTPCR report. Goa has six offshore casinos on Mandovi River, and several others inside the state’s leading hotels.
Shrinivas Nayak, Director of Majestic Pride Group (Majestic Pride Casino operator) said: “It has been a very hard time. In the first lockdown, we were shut for about seven months. This time, it was for about four months and 20 days. We Majestic Pride Casino have nearly 2,500 employees and we could not have laid them off. That is not human. We had no revenue but we still had to bear 70-80% of our expenses. The lockdown was uncertain and it kept extending week by week.”
Nilesh Shah, President of Travel and Tourism Association of Goa, added: “With casinos reopening, almost 14,000 people working in the industry will get a boost. In addition, the hotel industry in Panaji and in North Goa will also get a boost. Right now, their occupancy is about 20-30%.”
As casinos have become an integral part of Goa’s tourism, sources say the state government’s average annual income from gambling licence fees is more than Rs 320 crore ($43.4m).