Reopening can help revive tourism, say Goa’s casino owners

Panaji (IANS)┬áThe resumption of Goa’s casinos will help boost the state’s tourism prospects in the coming days, even as casino operations are adapting to the pandemic-inspired new normal with contactless check-in processes and making pre-booking mandatory for all guests.

“It’s too early to say as Goa has opened to tourism just a while back. However, it’s a known fact that the casino industry is an important stakeholder to the tourism industry in Goa and is a unique attraction. In due course of time, we are certain that there will surely be a positive impact on the tourist footfall in Goa,” says Anil Malani, chief executive officer of the Deltin Group, which runs three offshore casinos and one onshore casino in the coastal state.

Malani also said that with the steady increase in domestic flight traffic, the initial spell of hesitation on part of tourists and travellers was gradually reducing.

“However, there are still apprehensions around that considering the uncertainty about the Covid-19 situation panning out worldwide. We have adapted to the new normal with our packages and offers focusing on safety and well-being of our guests,” Malani said, when asked about the apprehension of tourists to cross state borders amid the pandemic.

After being shut down in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, casinos in Goa have reopened from November 1, after a decision made by state cabinet led by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant. Casino operations have been directed to function at 50 per cent capacity and strictly observe all SOPs put in place by the state and central governments. There are six offshore casinos and around 10 onshore casinos operating in the state.

Opposition parties, however, have slammed the Goa government’s decision to re-open casinos, claiming that the decision could lead to a rise in Covid-19 cases in the state, given that all casino gaming floors are indoors and function in crowded air conditioned environments.

But industry stakeholders have been cautious, given the unpredictable nature of the Covid-19 infection spread trajectories.

“We are expecting to see some time in red. There is a possibility of a surge during Diwali and soon after the festival. But according to our calculations, the surge may not last long due to the pandemic,” Director of the Casino Pride Group Shrinivas Nayak has said. The Casino Pride Group operates two offshore casinos and some onshore casino operations.

Casino promoters, however, insist that they have put in place mechanisms to prevent the spread of infection on their gaming floors.

“Safety and wellbeing of our patrons and staff is of paramount importance to us. Well before resuming operations, our teams set about analysing our current processes to reduce interactions and make each touchpoint safe; we created ‘BestAssured’ – an extensive list of precautions and guidelines for all our departments and staff members,” Malani said, adding that the protocol encompasses all aspects of the guests’ journey – stay, play and travel and also syncs in with the SOP set by the state Government.

“We made pre-booking mandatory for all guests and introduced contactless check-in process to reduce interaction at the booking counters. We are ensuring that our properties are cleaned with approved disinfectants and thoroughly sanitised. Additionally, we have altered our service offerings to suit the new normal,” Malani also said.

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