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Casinos in Goa into money laundering, claims Lokhancho Ekvott

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PANAJI:  Lokhancho Ekvott, a Goan social forum,  has claimed that Casinos in Goa are doing huge cash transactions, in total violation of the money laundering Act.

According to Lokhancho Ekvott spokesperson Audrey Fernandez, “the Goa Government had notified the Anti-Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism Guidelines, 2013” to keep a strict check on casinos operating in the State so that they do not indulge in illegal money transactions or unaccounted cash deals.

The guidelines made it mandatory for casinos to know the identity of the customer and source of his money, before he is allowed to gamble or for that matter even enter the gambling room. Cash transactions above a certain limit are barred and every customer who enters a casino has to provide a photo-copy of his PAN CARD and another identity document.

However, the casino operators have found a novel way to circumvent these provisions by authorizing third parties to take bookings for package deals for visitors and guests.

While these “package deals” are not suitable for hardcore gamblers, it still means a huge amount of business for the operators, given the fact that nearly 2000 guests visit a casino on any normal day (during the entire day). During the peak season this figure goes up to more than 5000 visitors per day.

According to industry estimates, only 30 to 35 percent casino vistors are hardcore repeat gamblers who visit the casino with the sole intention of gambling. These hardcore gamblers who spend anywhere up to Rs 7 to 10 lakh per visit or per night are given the option to pay in cash outside the casino and given huge discounts when they enter the casino to offset the cash amount paid outside the casino venue.

Some high-profile gamblers make payments outside India and are given “coupons” or “discount cards”, which enable them to avail of a huge discount and incentives on chips purchased inside the casino gambling room, said Fernandez, adding that this is nothing by money laundering as half the amount is paid overseas and only half is shown as “proceeds from gambling” by the casino operators.

The other so-called social gamblers or fun gamblers are given packages by tourist booking agencies like hotels or tour operators and are charged a flat amount anywhere from Rs 3000 to Rs 5000 per pax, including drinks and dinner.

This amount is not shown in the books of the casino company as proceeds of gambling, instead it is shown as income from food and beverage sales.

The tourists who book these packages are given a few chips to gamble – in some cases during off season, the equivalent of Rs 1500, but the system is managed in such a way that they can only play certain games and do not get jackpot or bigger amount prizes.

The Lokhancho Ekvott has called for strict scrutiny by the law-enforcing agencies in this regard. Casinos are welcome to do their business, (as they have obtained a license and paid a huge license fee to the State Government), only provided they do it legally and follow the laws laid down by the State. Casinos in Goa must not become avenues for money laundering.

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