After being shut down for over four months following Goa’s implemented curfew, casinos in the heavily tourism-reliant state have finally gotten the green light to reopen this week. Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant made it clear last Saturday that all casinos may begin to reopen as early as the 20th with operations capped at a 50% maximum capacity. On the other hand, guests, whether local or tourists, are limited to those who have been fully vaccinated or are able to present a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR test result prior to entry.
“Casinos can open from Monday at 50 percent capacity. The economy needs to be revived; it should start. It is not just the casino industry, but the hotel industry too. Tourism-related activities need to start”, said Chief Minister Sawant.
“Casinos will start from Monday with 50 percent capacity and strict pandemic protocols. Those who are fully vaccinated or those carrying RT-PCR negative certificates will be allowed to enter. The ban on spas, massage parlours, river cruises, EDMs, night clubs, will continue”, he added.
The decision to allow gaming establishments to reopen has been based on recent data showing that the positivity rate across the country recorded just under 2% for the past two to three weeks. The State Task Force Committee which comprises doctors and other experts, has likewise shown their support towards the timely reopening.
“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 percent”, noted Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) president Nilesh Shah.
The awaited news is also geared to boost the government’s revenue as it continues to collect licensing fees, entry fees and taxes from offshore casinos among others. It was only last month that the TTAG met with Chief Minister Sawant in a bid to reopen casino and entertainment sectors in the state. However, the response received from Goa’s Port Minister Michael Lobo was a promise to evaluate India’s public health situation once again and consider whether October would be a viable time to reopen.
Majestic Pride Group Director Shrinivas Nayak commented, “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 percent of our expenses. The lockdown was uncertain and it kept extending week by week.”
A few weeks earlier than expected, live poker rooms such as PokerBaazi LIVE – Majestic Pride Casino, have excitedly reopened their doors and are slowly seeing action return to its tables. Even so, live tournament poker enthusiasts would have to wait a bit more as major events yet remain to be permitted. With tourism activities across Goa back in business, it’s only a matter of time until Asia’s live poker hub once again sees its bright lights, captivating nightlife and beachy getaway scenes return in full view.