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It’s tourist time in coastal Goa – famous for its beaches, water sports, nightclubs, cruises, and casinos! The general buzz earlier this month was how the state government might allow casinos to reopen in October. Last week, the government issued new COVID-19 guidelines that included opening casinos with 50% capacity from September 20.
On Saturday, Goa CM Pramod Sawant announced that all casinos could reopen at 50% capacity. The only caveat is only fully vaccinated patrons or those who have tested negative for COVID-19 will be permitted 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,” Sawant said.
He added, “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.”
The decision came after the State Task Force Committee comprising a panel of doctors and other experts recommended the government reopen all tourism activities in the state.
On Saturday, PM Narendra Modi also urged the government to resume all economic activity. During a virtual meeting with CM Sawant, other state leaders, and healthcare workers, Modi noted that 11.66 Lakh people from a state population of 15.5 Lakh people had received at least one vaccination dose.
There are six offshore casinos and roughly double of this number operating onshore in Goa. After the news broke on Saturday, most live poker room operators like PokerBaazi LIVE (Casino Majestic Pride) and Spartan LIVE (Casino Big Daddy) started promoting their reopening plans across social media channels.
We have confirmation that the PokerBaazi LIVE poker room is now open to players. We had yet to get a reply from the other live poker room operators at the time of publishing this report.
The news immediately affected investor sentiment, and the Rakesh Jhunjhunwala-backed Delta Corp recorded a 52-week surge in its share price on the BSE index. The company scrip shot up by 13% to ₹258 per share during the BSE intraday trade on Monday. However, profit-booking resulted in the stock losing most of the gains to close at ₹223.45.
Casino Reopening – About Time
The Goa casinos shuttered down in mid-March last year after the pandemic first broke through the world. Most of the scheduled live series had to be canceled or postponed, causing significant losses to operators. With the casino business stuck in limbo, the poker room operators – at least those with an online presence – began increasing their presence on the online felts.
In the face of increasing COVID-19 cases during the second wave, casinos were one of the first business establishments asked to close down. Even though many other establishments slowly began to open up in the following months, the casinos closed in April remained shuttered.
Last month a delegation of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) met Goa CM Pramod Sawant, seeking the reopening of the casino and entertainment sector. Amid rising demand for casinos to open up, Goa’s Port Minister Michael Lobo asserted that the government would reevaluate the country’s COVID situation and take a call on letting them open from October.
Director of Majestic Pride Group, Shrinivas Nayak, during a recent interview with Jay Sayta, had also indicated that the casino sector is gearing up to reopen from October. Nayak had outlined that this time operators have taken stringent measures to make casinos a COVID-safe zone. While most employees are double vaccinated, most operators have ensured that even ancillary service providers like cab drivers have been double vaccinated.
Delta Corp Shares Jump
The news of casinos reopening immediately affected the casino sector. The only BSE-listed casino company, Delta Corp, saw a significant uptick in its share price. The company operates the offshore Deltin Royale, Deltin Caravela and Deltin JAQK, and the onshore Hotel Deltin Suites.
According to ZeeBiz.com, the company’s stock saw a 52-week high on Monday and traded at ₹258 per share – 13% higher – during the BSE intraday trade.
In its regulatory filing on Sunday, the company stated – “Further to our previous disclosures on various dates in relation to the operation of our casinos, we would like to inform you that the Government of Goa has allowed reopening of the Casinos in the State. All the casinos operated by the Company and its subsidiaries in Goa will resume operations from September 20, 2021.”
Delta’s shares have picked up in September. The company stock price made significant gains earlier this month after the Goa Investment Promotion Board (IPB) approved the company’s ambitious Integrated Resort Project at Dhargal Pernem. Within a week, the company scrip strengthened further as its subsidiary in Kathmandu resumed operations on September 8.