The state lottery and all forms of gambling are banned in the state of Karnataka, India. However when the state hosted the Invest Karnataka 2016 conference, talks surfaced about the possibility of introducing offshore casinos in the state to boost tourism. The tourism industry is now pushing for the state government to pass a new law that would allow offshore casinos to operate in the coastal areas of Uttara Kannada and Dakshina Kannada.
RV Deshpande, the Industries minister, has come up with a proposal to combine offshore casinos and cruises which will initially target foreign tourists visiting Karnataka. Casinos are banned in most Indian states and only Goa, Daman and Sikkim permit casino gambling. However Karnataka has lifted the ban on the poker industry after lawmakers decided that poker can be defined as a game of skill and hence would not fall under the category of gambling. Deshpande believes that lifting the ban on casino gambling, could generate a significant amount of revenue in the form of gambling taxes for the state government.
The initial proposal is to operate in the two coastal districts and restrict the entry to only foreigners. Should the offshore casino operation turn out to be a success, the government can then consider introducing offshore casinos in other coastal districts such as Tadri, Belekeri and Malpe. The government will also consider allowing Indian nationals to enter and play at these offshore casinos.
However Priyank M Kharge, the tourism minister, remains skeptical over the proposal. The minister wants to first see a detailed policy and set of regulations before pushing for offshore casino licenses to be granted.
In a statement, Kharge said “Two agencies have come forward to run offshore casinos on the lines of those in Goa, but we are treading cautiously. A move to launch casinos may generate opposition since the state has already banned lottery and gambling. In the next few days, we will discuss legalizing offshore casinos.”
A number of state ministers and lawmakers are in favor of approving offshore casinos. They know that one of the reasons why Goa’s casinos are so successful is because it attracts tourists from all over India and many of them go there just to gamble. Legalizing offshore casinos in Karnataka will help keep this gambling revenue within the state. The other concern is that the illegal gambling industry in Karnataka is growing at a rapid pace and most effective way to curb its growth is to legalize casino gambling. The state government has already studied Goa’s offshore casino model and tax revenue structure and will look to introduce similar policies as lawmakers continue to push for offshore casinos.