IndianClicks_Essen_Media_M9Will Goa-Based Online Gambling Cannibalise the State’s Casino Business?

Gambling has been legal in Goa for decades and a big influence on the local tourism, economy and even political culture. With the advent of online gaming sites, the small coastal state now has a chance to expand its gambling brand on the global scene and leave family tourism to the benefit of Goa communities.

A Driving Force of Local Development

Since their establishment roughly three decades ago, casinos in Goa have played an important part in local economic growth, employment and even welfare policies. Gaming parlors, hotels and cruise ships poured in tax revenues, attracted tourists and drove the state to the top of India’s social and economic rankings.

The casino industry worked alongside politicians to establish rules and licenses that attract fans of real-money games and keep out minors and, more recently, almost all local residents. However, the series of lockdowns exposed its weakness in competing for a wider market, more sustainably and for the long term.

As noted by Svilen Madjov in a recent research piece on Goan gambling culture, online casino platforms have proven their ability to reach mobile users everywhere. This has put Goa’s position as an international destination in the balance.

In FY 2018 and 2019, the casino industry contributed Rs 330 and Rs 411 crore respectively to the State exchequer in direct taxes alone. In its peak, Goa receives around three million tourists annually, boosting local employment and public projects as a result.

However, losses of tax revenue are reportedly tenfold the above amounts, as an estimated Rs 4,000 crore goes undeclared in cash gaming. Most casinos operate strictly in cash, something which is firmly opposed by the government’s vision of a cashless economy.

What is more, even without venue closures and other limitations, these figures are just a minor fraction of what the Indian market currently represents. Being able to reach both domestic and international gambling communities is an opportunity that Goa should possibly not miss out on.

If You Can’t Beat Your Online Casino Competitors, Join Them

The online business model gives Casino Days and the whole cohort of offshore operators a series of advantages. Even the best among them and the ones subjected to the strictest licensing regulations are able to offer cheaper and hands-on access to games that are out of reach for most Indians.

The Union online real-money market was valued at $2.8 billion (Rs 22,500 crore) by Deloitte in 2021. A couple of years earlier, KPMG attempted to lift the lid on the entire desi betting and gambling market, citing the astounding $130 billion (~Rs 10 lakh crore), mostly in undeclared and underground transactions unfortunately.

If current growth trends are maintained, industry analysts estimated that by 2025-2026 India’s real-money games could bring in as much as Rs 1 lakh crore from online activities. If the entire gambling market were to be regulated, these amounts could go as high as Rs 9 lakh crore.

From the viewpoint of a relatively small economy, Goa can certainly benefit from exploiting its gambling fame online. Mobile and app-based casinos with Goan licenses can be a sensible (and reputable) alternative to old-fashioned gaming floors.

Casino cruises and luxury hotels cannot compete with the fast-paced digital gaming scene. A sustainable transition can be prepared, supported and executed with the help of public authorities, consumer protection groups and tech industry experts.

Once Goa is left “alone” with its tourism, it can concentrate on what the locals would be happy to see. Many hospitality operators have already been presenting the state as a family-friendly destination, with entertainment centers that go well beyond gambling, retail parks, water attractions and convention centers.

Goa could easily remain the symbol of affordable glamour for India’s middle class. A place where daycare centers are just a normal sight as a music show, dance festivals and beach games. A transition to a more inclusive tourism and entertainment is easily achieved, especially if supported by a shift to online gambling by its industry leaders.

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