Is India Missing Out On The Economic Benefits Of Casinos?

For the most part, casinos are illegal in India, even though gaming and betting are issues left up to the states to govern. Some festival holidays come with limited gambling permissions, and there are also some states that do allow casinos,  with Goa and its floating gaming venues  being the most notable. In Goa, in fact, there are both onshore venues and docked casino cruises, but only the latter can legally have live tables. Filled with bars, gaming tables, and pretty surroundings, the floating casinos largely attract travellers who are looking for a luxurious night out, and thus contribute to Goa's standing as one of India’s most popular tourist destinations.


We mention Goa because it's seen by some as an example of what could be. In this region, the state has wisely decided to permit casino activity in order to bring in even more money than it otherwise would from tourists exploring the area (as well as, undoubtedly, from some locals who simply enjoy gambling). 


Some proponents of an expanded casino industry argue that there could be economic benefits attached to legalising gaming and betting in more states throughout India. For instance, although taxes on casino earnings aren’t nearly as profitable as other forms of taxation, they're still a potential source of revenue for state governments (if not the national government). At present, many tourists inclined to gamble do so because they can't where they're from - and thus, taxes on winnings in these instances go to the states or countries tourists are visiting, rather than the ones they reside in. To look at one example, this has been an incentive for some states in the United States (where gambling is widely prohibited) to loosen their laws. These states don’t want to be losing potential income to other states or countries. 


Governments can also run their own lotteries when betting is legal, and more often than not it’s the state the reaps the benefits of national lotteries. For example, looking again to the U.S. (a fitting comparison given the mix of gambling laws), the government of California made 25 cents for every dollar spent on lottery tickets , and then used that money to boost education spending and avoid budget cuts. Of course, not all governments would necessarily spend this sort of tax revenue in such a useful way, but the potential is certainly for positive results is there.  


Goa can be viewed by proponents as a nice start in this business, and the coast will always attract tourists because of its stunning beauty. Nevertheless, it remains the case that India’s gaming business in no way compares to that of some other major destinations around the world, primarily in Southeast Asia and Europe. Not only are casinos popular and readily accessible in these areas, but some countries - most notably the UK and Ireland - have also enjoyed huge industry boosts by making online casino gaming options available . In some cases, the online games are even accessible beyond national borders, effectively establishing international revenue streams. 


In Southeast Asia, meanwhile, the focus has been more on establishing lavish casino resorts, such as Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa, to name a few. To use the latter as an example, the venue not only has a massive casino, but is also home to six hotels, a water park, and a Universal Studios, among many other attractions. As a tourist hub in the city, Resorts World has effectively integrated gaming into the traveller experience by positioning it alongside so many other popular attractions. And even now there are reports coming out about the potential expansion of the resort - one goal being for the government to bring in more revenue from gaming.  


Of course, there are always potential downsides to opening more casinos as well. Governments show concern for the liability involved, and in some cases don't want to help spread an activity that some frown upon. However, examples around the world show that if managed properly and closely regulated, casinos in various forms have the potential to boost a state or national economy. It's for this simple reason that casino expansion is something Indian governing bodies would at least do well to consider in the near future. 



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