Media reports show that the state of Goa is looking examine its offshore casinos to certify that these operators have filed their tax returns accurately. Sources indicate that the state government is acting based on suspicions that its floating casinos are dodging taxes by intentionally understating their carrying capacity, a figure that is used to calculate the vessel’s tax obligations.
Six floating casinos are currently stationed in Goa, in addition to a number of traditional gambling venues located in hotels. Goa’s state government has announced plans to deploy inspectors to these gambling venues. The teams are comprised of staffers from multiple departments, including taxation, public works, and environmental safety.
The chief concern of the inspectors will be determining the floating casinos’ carrying capacity, and ensuring that the number matches their stated carrying capacity to the government.
A number of accusations have been lobbied against Goa’s casino industry in recent years. Last summer, Goa casinos allegedly withheld from recording all financial transactions to minimise their Goods & Services Tax. The previous year also saw the casinos purportedly dodging the taxes due on their licenses. Goa’s increased casino fees were upheld in a court of law in 2018, which has led to some smaller land-based casinos winding up their operations.
Panaji Rejects Floating Casinos
Another issue that the state government needs to address is allocating a new location for their floating casinos before they are relocated to a stable land-based location that is yet to be determined.
In November 2019, the government revealed its plans to relocate three of its floating casinos to the Panaji side of the Mandovi river, with the rest of the offshore casinos being relocated to the Verem side. In the same month, the state awarded India’s chief casino operator Delta Corp. with permission to relocate the Deltin Caravela floating casino to a different area of the Mandovi river.
Officials from Panaji expressed dismay at this plan, pushing instead for these floating casinos to be barred from the region entirely. They argued that their city lacks the size and infrastructure to be able to handle the massive amounts of people the floating casinos bring in. The city will not be able to address the pollution and traffic on their streets, while the undeveloped upstream communities will likely be overrun. Panaji fishermen also noted that their livelihoods will be affected by the floating casinos.
These floating casinos in Goa are currently operating on a 6 month license extension. The Panaji city council has voted that they will no longer extend these license approvals and will shut them down soon after. The current six-month extension will end on March 31.