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The second wave of COVID-19 is wreaking havoc across the country. As the country records an unprecedented spike in cases, Goa, the country’s casino hub, reported 54 deaths on Monday – its highest single-day toll during the pandemic so far. While the alarming death toll has sent the political machinery into turmoil, the government is crediting it to a technical glitch.
Either way, the state government is not taking any chances and has extended the weekend lockdown in Goa by another week. This means all non-essential services, including hotels, bars, restaurants, and casinos, will have to remain shut until at least 7 AM on May 10.
Reiterating the same, the North Goa District Magistrate issued an order to casinos and other establishments stating – “A surge in COVID-19 cases is being witnessed in Goa and other parts of the country, and the situation might further aggravate due to public gatherings and active interactions among high positivity rate.”
The news resulted in a fresh wave of panic among investors. Delta Corp, India’s only BSE-listed casino and hospitality company, had recorded a 1.56% drop in its stock prices on April 28, trading at ₹154.35, after the government had announced the four-day shutdown last week. The market reacted sharply to the extension of lockdown, and the company’s share continued to slide, registering an almost 3% drop to hit an intraday low of ₹149.65 on Tuesday. The stock closed at ₹151.35 today.
A Business Standard report quoting Delta Corp personnel stated – “We are unable to estimate the quantum of potential losses on account of this temporary closure and the pandemic at this time.”
Is Goa On Way to a Longer Lockdown?
Goa casinos had to remain shut for over seven months last year, starting mid-March in 2020 to reopen only on November 1. Even after reopening, the casinos were functioning at a maximum of 50% capacity as part of the COVID-19 restrictions.
On April 21, the Goa government implemented the night curfew, ordering venues to remain closed from 10 PM to 6 AM. Casinos were among the most affected business establishments since they experience the highest traffic at night.
The move was followed by CM Sawant announcing a four-day lockdown from April 29 to May 3. Even though Sawant urged the locals not to panic, the Goa chapter of the Indian Medical Association recommended an extension of the lockdown in Goa on Friday.
On Monday, the state reported 2,303 new cases in 24 hours, including 54 deaths.
The State health machinery later claimed that a technical glitch resulted in 14 prior deaths from April 29-30 to be erroneously added to Monday’s death count. The same has been decried by the political opposition. Leader of opposition Digambar Kamat claimed that the State government was trying to hide the 14 deaths. “It is clear that they tried to hide 14 deaths yesterday. Why? How many times in the past have they done it? Chief Minister Pramod Sawant must give an explanation about this,” Kamat said.
Another opposition MLA Sudin Dhavalikar appealed to the Bombay High Court to intervene in the “shoddy” Covid management in the state and extend the lockdown “suo moto.”
State Health Minister Vishvajit Rane has also called out for a longer, month-long lockdown to control the pandemic. Rane predicted that Goa might witness between 200-400 COVID-19 related deaths daily over the next 10 days unless there’s an all-pervasive shutdown.
We reached out to a few poker room operators on their views on the likelihood of a further extension of the closure, but there was no official response. However, amid such grim circumstances, it is starting to look unlikely casinos will be able to resume operations on May 10.