The recent statement by Goa’s Chief Minister confirming that his government would soon ban the entry of locals to casinos has the potential to hurt the nascent poker market in India.
Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar made the remarks to a local media channel last week stating that the government could not be seen supporting gambling. Goa is one of the three states in India that allows casino to operate. It is currently home to around 11 land based casinos and 6 floating casinos.
Poker has so far been played in restricted circles in India but in recent times both online and offline poker has grown in popularity. The tourist hotspot of Goa has particularly benefited with casinos being an added draw for visitors.
The Chief Minister has vowed to limit casino operations in the state but has stopped short of calling for a blanket ban by stating that given the extensive investments made in the industry, the government would not ban casinos completely. Parrikar has been previously accused by opposition parties of favoring the casino industry.
According to Parrikar, activities like gambling were detrimental to the Goan culture. Poker has only recently started to take off in a big way and Parrikar’s statements indicate the difficulties faced by the industry. Industry observers believe that if the ban comes through, then casino revenues would be hit significantly and the poker industry in the country will also suffer.
Analysts believe that a ban in Goa could impact poker’s popularity and growth as a whole with tournaments and events having to find new hosts. Since 2010, the Indian Poker Championship has been held at various casinos located in Panjim, Goa.
The move could however benefit online poker ventures like the recently-introduced Poker Sports League. The Indian Poker Sports League (PSL) much like the Global Poker League is aiming to sportify poker and increase its reach to a wider audience. The company has tried delinking it from gambling by highlighting the fact that poker is a game of skill and has tried to compare it to the game of cricket, which is the most popular sport in the country.
Pranav Bagai, CEO, PSL has emphasized that one of the key goals of the company was to establish poker as a mind sport in India. The soon-to- begin inaugural edition of PSL has avoided entry fees for its games, enabling it to bypass gambling laws of the country. While the PSL is aiming at attracting poker lovers it also plans to introduce a reality show to bring in mass interest.