North Goa India Airport May Land Casinos, But Only for Airline Passengers

Posted on: August 1, 2019, 06:22h. 

Last updated on: August 1, 2019, 07:52h.

North Goa — a popular tourist destination in India — may feature gaming venues at a 232-acre planned commercial zone adjoining the forthcoming Mopa international airport.

Beaches are among the tourist draws in North Goa India but a new airport may feature casinos. (Image: V Resorts)

The airport has been touted as a site where airline passengers could gamble before and after flights. In fact, some or all of the six floating casinos now on the Mandovi River in Panaji — the state’s capital city — could be relocated to the airport complex.

By placing casinos there, gambling could be targeted to tourists especially those from foreign nations. As envisioned this week, access to the gaming venues would be limited to airline passengers, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said in a statement released in the state’s Legislative Assembly on Monday, according to NDTV.

Revenue Projection

Having Goa’s casinos move to a land-based location, could mean a major jump in gaming revenue, too. Last year, Union Gaming Securities, a Las Vegas-investment advisory firm, predicted yearly gross gaming revenues could top $1 billion if the casinos are moved to dry land.

“We compare the Goa transition, from riverboat to land-based, as like the Midwest US riverboat transition story on steroids,” the firm’s Managing Director Grant Govertsen said in 2018. “We expect Goa to quickly transition to land-based casinos.”

Goa casinos generate about $150 million in gross gaming each year. So, Govertsen projected the casino revenue could jump 567 percent.

Politicians and residents continue their pressure to relocate the Mandovi River floating casinos to elsewhere in the region. Last month, Atanasio Monserrate, a legislator in the Goa Legislative Assembly, who is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, demanded the floating vessels be moved from the Mandovi River because they are creating a “mess,” according to the Deccan Herald.

But as of last month, it was unclear where they would be moved. In March, the regional government gave the floating venues only a six-month extension for the river location.

Another possible North Goa location for the six river-based venues would be Aguada Bay. That is near Panaji, and where the Mandovi River meets the Arabian Sea.

Goa Ports Minister Michael Lobo said in July the government would conduct a survey of the bay to weigh whether it would be an adequate location for the casinos.

But reassigning casinos to the new airport would help build a diverse tourist commercial hub. Under current plans, the airport complex will feature hotels, adventure parks and retail outlets.

Airport Construction Delays

Construction on the airport has been relatively slow. Currently, at least part of the airport is scheduled to open in 2021 but last month Pramod Sawant said only 14.28 percent of the project was complete.

The opening date was postponed earlier this year after judges on the Supreme Court temporarily halted construction to allow for additional environmental study, according to Moneycontrol. The delay stemmed from the alleged illegal destruction of thousands of trees located at the airport site, Mint reported.

Eventually, the airport is likely to handle 30 million passengers a year. The new airport is the second in the state of Goa and is the only one in the northern district.

The existing airport is located away from gaming venues in Dabolim. Casinos and entertainment areas are found in many Goa hotels, according to Conde Nast Traveler, with nine gaming venues located on shorefront locations.

The Legislative Assembly also may eventually update gaming policy now included in the Public Gambling Act approved in 1976. The Assembly already missed a deadline last year to amend the rules.

Some political leaders would like to restrict offshore gambling in the region. As a whole, India has very limited gambling. Beyond Goa, only Daman and Sikkim allow gaming.