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It was on March 28, that we had reported that the Goa state government continuing its annual tradition of hiking the casino license fees, had announced a massive hike of up to 4.5 times from the existing fee structure. The hike came into effect from April 1.
In the wake of the decision, the sixth offshore casino operator Golden Globe Hotels Private Limited (GGHPL) has moved the Bombay High Court at Goa seeking directions to the government to reduce the fee stating that the government took the decision without any intimation to casino operators and that the sudden surge could impact tourism in the state. GGHPL had to pay ₹30 crores as recurring fee and also sought interim relief to be allowed to pay ₹11 crores now and the balance in installments.
The hike in licensee fee has created a lot of unrest among casino operators especially onshore casino operators who have asked for a reduction in the fee. However, a few among them are even willing to abide by the revised fee structure provided live gaming permits at par with offshore casino operators are granted.
Now, the Bombay High Court at Goa has asked the state government to make a submission with details of the process it will follow to cancel the casino licenses and their consequences if the casino operators fail to pay the license fee. The state will make its submission today.
The division bench of Justices N M Jamdar and Prithviraj Chavan asked Advocate General Dattaprasad Lawande to file a written reply and also asked if a show cause notice is issued to casino operators before the license is cancelled.
The court however refused to entertain GGHPL’s plea noting that the hike in fee was for all operators and not specifically for them.
The opposition – Aam Aadmi party (AAP) has joined the fiasco and the matter has been made political with the party challenging the state government to come out openly on the proposal to reduce license fees for casinos.
“AAP had already claimed that the recent fee hike, while granting further extensions to casinos which the government was now seeking to reduce, was part of the overall strategy that helped in capitalisation through buying of shares at a reduced price and then strategically leaking the news of the fee hike reduction that caused a 14% rise in a day in the price of shares.” AAP convenor Elvis Gomes stated. “In the absence of the chief minister, people in the government are a bit scared to put their notings on file on fee reduction, and hence, as is always the case, the typical modus operandi to approach the courts is being adopted. The casino operators are approaching the court, where, on expected lines the respondent; government, will weaken it’s stand so that the casino operators win,” he added.