Saturday 28 November 2020

News Analysed, Opinions Expressed

Diwali Bonus only for Casinos?

 

If the Goa government is truly short of money, its decision to write-off Rs277 crore of dues owed by the casino industry is completely unacceptable, especially when small businesses are struggling with zero support from the government



The Goa government has allowed casino operators to pay their license fees on a month-by-month basis. This will save casino operators a massive Rs277 crore…!

 

Why were casinos in Goa allowed to open from 1 November? That Covid-19 cases were declining in the state is a mere coincidence. The principal reason is the festival of Diwali, which is the ‘high-peak’ season for casinos in Goa, just as the period from Christmas to New Year is for hotels in the state.

Gambling is an old Indian tradition during Diwali. It is said that Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, showers blessings on the gambler’s household for the rest of the year. A popular North Indian saying is that the one that does not gamble on Diwali is reborn as a donkey in their next birth.

The festival of Dhanteras (‘dhan’ meaning wealth and ‘teras’ signifying the thirteenth lunar day of the ‘Krishna Paksha’ or the fortnight leading to the New Moon in the Hindu calendar month of ‘Kartik’) is commemorated a day before ‘Narak Chaturdashi’, the night of ‘Narkasuras’ in Goa. That is when ‘Lakshmi Pujan’ takes place in the Konkan.

It is believed that on this day, the Goddess Parvati played a game of celestial dice with her husband Lord Shiva. She decreed that whoever gambled on this night would prosper in the coming year. This scene is superbly sculpted in the rock-cut Kailash temple in Ellora.

For most Gujaratis, Marwaris and other North Indians, Diwali is not just the festival of lights but also of gambling. Some rationalise that the gambling is to make the player aware of the fickleness of lady luck and to inculcate a sense of balance in the pursuit of material success…

Be that as it may, the casino owners got their way. They are all now open.

But they have also got a big, fat Diwali bonus. Goa’s casino operators are required to pay their annual fees by lumpsum in advance. But the state’s biggest casino operator Delta in its latest quarterly report has noted that the casino sector made a representation to the state government “seeking a waiver / reduction / proportionate payment mechanism” for gaming license fees for the period in which they were forced to close.

The Goa government has allowed casino operators to pay their license fees on a month-by-month basis, effectively eliminating the need to pay the fees for the months in which they were closed. This move will collectively save casino operators a massive Rs277 crore…!

Goa’s industry associations have objected to this. The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Goa State Industries Association (GSIA), Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) and the Verna Industries Association (VIA) have issued a joint statement strongly opposing the writing-off of Rs277 crore, which the casinos owe as part of their annual recurrence fee.

They have pointed out that medium, small and micro industries (MSMEs), small traders, restaurants, retail wine shops, transport operators and other small businesses have struggled for survival during the pandemic and lockdown since March 2020. Several requests to the Goa government for waiver of fees for the lockdown period have been ignored. The state government keeps saying that it is facing a financial crunch and can’t afford it.

It is not that casinos have not suffered. India’s largest casino operator Delta Corp had a very poor quarterly financial report card. Its total revenue in the three months ending 30 September was Rs46.05 crore, a 77.5 per cent fall from the same period last year. The company says it made a net loss of Rs54.90 crore, compared to a Rs59 crore profit in the same quarter last year.

But, even though Delta’s casinos in Goa and Sikkim were closed, it kept up an online gambling operation that earned it Rs44.6 crore during this period. Goa’s hotels, restaurants, shops, travel operators and industries did not have even this little luxury.

If the Goa government is truly short of money, its decision to write-off crores of rupees to the casino industry is unacceptable. Small businesses in the state are struggling with zero support from the government. These are the major drivers of Goa’s economy, but the government is giving them the lowest priority. If its coffers are empty and it cannot help small businesses, how can the government give such a huge windfall to casinos?

The industry and trade associations have rightly demanded that if the casino industry is granted any waiver, similar benefits should be extended to MSMEs, traders and shopkeepers, as well as the tourism sector. The TTAG has asked for a 50 per cent reduction in tourism licences and fees paid to urban and rural governing bodies.

If the government is planning to waive fees owed by casinos during the lockdown period, the same principle must be made applicable across the board to all sectors of the economy that have suffered during the lockdown and after.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.



If we want to close businesses well then all of them should be charged irrespective of the fact that their businesses were running during that period or not. Charge them with crores and make them suffer huge losses , we are only concerned with taxes or social viability, why we should bother about economic viability , an issue that has never let this country progress , we successfully brought down air India, brought railways to a pathetic condition, applicable for telecom, power, infrastructure companies as well, this is the best we are at.

We are here talking about licence fees which couldn't be charged for the period during which lockdown was imposed.

Are these businesses paying licence fees to operate, if not then comparisons do not hold any ground.

 
Saurabh Garg |

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Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

 

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