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Casino Gambling in India

In India, we currently have legal casinos in two states – Goa and Sikkim – with politicians in Punjab hoping their state becomes the third. I will discuss these later in this article, but first let’s talk about playing online, where the situation is different.

Due to legal reasons, there are no companies who operate online casinos in India . Instead, our residents use foreign websites, who offer a safe, legal and licensed option. This is actually very easy to do. There are many gambling sites that accept Indians. Most of these are based in other countries and are easy for Indians to join and play at. These sites support multiple languages, as well as multiple currencies including INR. The two best options are listed below.

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Of the two options above, Dafa888 is the easiest to use. They are owned by Asian Logic, one of Asia’s largest gaming operators. Asian Logic have branded betting shops throughout the Philippines under the name “Mega Sports World”. Their Dafa brand is headquartered in the same country but caters for players worldwide. After joining their site, it is possible to deposit money by using your online banking account. If you prefer not to use online banking, you can also deposit by making a domestic transfer at your local bank. They accept deposits in Indian rupees. After you’ve deposited you can then use this money to play real money games. Withdrawals can also be made by bank transfer. ‘

Bet365 is based in the United Kingdom. They are the UK’s seventh-largest private company, have thousands of employees, and own the English Premier League football franchise Stoke City. While they accept India rupee (INR), depositing with their website requires using an e-wallet. If you are unfamiliar with this my article on INR bookies covers how e-wallets work.

Indian Casino Games

The remainder of this page discusses physical casinos located in India. At all of these, you will find plenty of western style games including slot machines, roulette, blackjack, tai sai (sic-bo) and baccarat. At some you will also find Ultimate Texas Hold’em, lucky 7, pontoon, wheel of fortune, 5-card poker (Caribbean Stud) and war. The games that foreigners may not be familiar with are listed below.

  • Paplu – is a version of Rummy that is very popular in India. This is especially true in Maharashtra State. It is played both socially and as a form of gambling nationwide.
  • Flush – is a popular 3 card poker game also known as Flash and Teen Patti. The 2010 Bollywood movie Teen Patti starring Ben Kingsley, Amitabh Bachchan, R. Madhavan, Raima Sen, Shraddha Kapoor has helped draw some international attention to this game which is one of the most popular in India.
  • Andar Bahar – in English means left right and this is a very easy card game to play that has several side betting options. It is sometimes played under the alternative name Katti.

While these traditional games are found in Goa, they’re not yet offered by any Indian online casinos. Unfortunately, at this moment in time, there are no well-regulated websites to play Paplu, Flush, and Andar Bahar online.

Finding a Loophole in State Laws

india casinos

Map of India showing the locations of our casinos

We had a prohibition on casinos that dated back to times of British rule. This first came in 1867 with the passing of the Public Gambling Act. Today, this is a semi-controversial law. It was adopted after India’s independence. However, the Constitution of India (Seventh Schedule Entry 34 List II) gives states the authority to create their own gambling law. At first this was a non-issue as states only passed laws that made the penalties for gambling harsher.

Goa Casinos

The first Indian state to put the differences in the Constitution and the Public Gambling Act to the test was Goa. They modified the Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act from 1976 in 1992 and again in 1996. The first modification was to allow for government approved games of electronic amusement/slot machines in 5-Star hotels. The next was to allow for authorised gambling on licensed offshore vessels.

Gambling in upscale hotels was not too controversial. This attracted tourism to the country, something most politicians viewed as a positive. On December 2, 1999, the first floating casino Caravela was licensed, and – thus the controversy was born. This boat sat on the Mandovi River, and after opening, became available to both tourists and locals. However, after six more vessels were approved for licenses, the issue became a topic of heated political debate.

A US diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks perhaps settles the debate. It claims both the Congress Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were equally responsible for promoting gambling in Goa, but each was against it when they were in opposition. It was the Congress Party who first amended the laws to legalize gaming. The BJP vehemently opposed this. However, once the BJP came into power, chief minister Manohar Parrikar granted a license for Casino Goa early in his tenure.

A lot of the debate since has been vote jockeying. However, this has had led to some changes. In 2011, five of the seven offshore licenses were abruptly cancelled. This was however appealed.

After the BJP regained power in 2012 more changes came. The per head tariff to be paid was reduced from Rs. 2000 to Rs. 500, but the annual licence fees were increased. The new licence fee is Rs 6.5 crore per year for offshore, and Rs 2.5 crore per year for land based entities. Between tariffs and licensing fees, in the fiscal year 2012-2013, Goa casinos were worth Rs 135.45 crore to the state government.

Visiting Goa

As far as visiting Goa is concerned, this is something I highly recommend. It is a beautiful area with great beaches, resorts, fine dining and plenty of entertainment. Do however be advised that there is an entry-fee for all casinos in the state. The official tariff is Rs.500 and this is what the onshore ones located in 5-Star hotels most often charge to enter.

Some, and this includes all of the offshore ones, charge a higher entry fee but it includes items such as one-time gaming chips, unlimited buffets, spa packages or other perks. In many cases the price is higher and includes more perks on the weekend, and is pretty straight forward during the week. In the following sections below, I’ve assembled some details on the properties in Goa that are operational as of April 2013.

goa casinos

Goa has a mix of onshore and offshore casinos. Pictured l to r: Casino Carnival, Majorda Resorts, Crown Goa, Casino Royale

Panaji, Tiswadi, Goa

  • Crown Casino – is located on the first floor of The Crown Goa (hotel) at Bairo Alto Dos Pilotos, Jose Falcao Road, Panaji, Goa. It features roulette, black jack, baccarat, 3-card poker, video roulette, ultimate Texas hold’em, lucky 7, wheel of fortune and progressive slots. Rooms can be booked at ww.thecrowngoa.com. The same website also tells much more about the hotel property and surrounding area.
  • Casino Pride (floating) – is a large ship with three floors totaling 30,000 sq. ft in area. Here western games roulette, blackjack, baccarat, war, Caribbean Stud and Texas Hold’em are offered, as well as Indian games such as mini-flush, flush, andar bahar and paplu. It is open 24 hours. The entry fee on Monday to Thursday: Rs 1000 which includes Rs 500 in one-time play coupons. On Friday to Sunday the entry is Rs 1500 which includes Rs 1000 in one-time play coupons. Also featured is an unlimited food buffet, unlimited drinks & snacks while playing on the gaming table, live entertainment between 9pm to 11pm and special kids zones.
  • Casino Carnival Goa (floating) – is on the vessel Boa Sorte, which in English means “good luck”. While fully capable of sailing, it remains anchored in the Mandovi river and is accessible by the Panaji Jetty. This features a large gaming floor, many forms of entertainment, a poker room and much more. You can learn more at their comprehensive website www.casinocarnival.in.
  • Casino Carnival at the Marriott – owned by the same company as the property above, these two casinos share the same name, although this one is on dry land. You can learn more about it using the link above, or can even book direct on the Marriot web page.
  • Casino Royale Goa (floating) – is one of India’s most famous. It is a preferred choice for poker players due to its poker room and annual tournament series which include the Casino Royale Cup and the India Poker Championship. There are also many choices for fine dining and a massive gaming area that features all the most popular games. The short trip out to the boat can be organised from their 24/7 Jetty.

Dona Paula, Tiswadi, Goa

In Dona Paula, Tiswadi, Goa there are two onshore casinos that are affiliated with each other.

  • Goldfinger Casino – is located in Hotel Cidade de Goa and is open 24 hours a day. It is situated along the 40-acres of Vainguinim Beach. It has traditional western-style games as well as a computerized grand derby.
  • Chances Casino – is also located inside the hotel Cidade de Goa. It is a sister property of the one listed above.

Bardez, Goa

There are several places to gamble in Bardez including those listed below.

  • Casino Paradise – is located inside the Neo Majestic hotel in Porvorim, Bardez, Goa. This is a 5-star hotel has 50 suites which can be booked by calling 0832-6516666. The gaming floor cost Rs. 500 to enter and is quite large at 5,000 square feet. It features robotic arm baccarat stations, sega (a horse racing table game), digital roulette stations, roulette tables, blackjack, baccarat, and mini flush.
  • Casino Royale at Rivera De Goa Resort is located in Arpora, Bardez, Goa. It is situated near the Saturday night Bazaar and is a short-ride to one of the nicest beach in India. Because it shares the same name as a floating casino, finding information using Google can be somewhat challenging. There is however a TripAdvisor page with reviews, and this hotel can be booked using most the popular internet booking sites.
  • Casino Palms – is located in the La Calypso Hotel, Calangute on Baga Road in Baga, Bardez, Goa. This casino was designed for those who wish to play electronic games between spending time with the family on the beach. It has a Rs. 500 entry fee and the games found here include slot machines, live roulette, mini-baccarat, blackjack and tai sai (sic-bo). The property has a famous multi-cuisine restaurant the Pan India, which features top dishes from different Indian states. It also has the La Pub pool side bar, beach games and luxury rooms with open views of the Arabian Sea.

Varca, Salcete, Goa

  • Casino Dunes (Varca) – is located inside the Zuri White Sands Goa Resort & Casino which is situated on the shore of the longest beach in Varca, Goa. You can learn about this property that also has fine dining, 154-guest rooms, a spa, and more at www.thezurihotels.com.
  • Casino Goa Nugget (Varca) – is located inside the Ramada Caravela Beach Resort, which is ranked one of the top hotels in Varca.. A nice plus is that rooms can be booked for this hotel at most major booking sites such as Agoda, Hotels.com, etc.
  • Casinos Treasures (Majorda) – is located in Majorda Beach Resort Goa. This is an absolutely beautiful property with an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, a gymnasium, and gaming facilities including tennis, squash and billiards. There is also a hydrotherapeutic jacuzzi (with steam and sauna) and a spa offering therapeutic massages in ancient Keralite tradition with ayurvedic herbal pastes & natural oils. Their website www.majordabeachresort.com has plenty of photos. The gaming area is however quite small. It consists of only a few tables of which robotic-roulette is one of the games.

Rajbag, Canacona, Goa

  • Casino Dice – is the only place to gamble in Canacona. It is located in The LaLiT Golf & Spa Resort Goa. It is open from 16:00 to midnight each day. If deciding to stay here, be sure to shop around for the best price. All the major booking sites such as Agoda, Hotels.com, and Expedia offer bookings for this hotel. You can read reviews and find a rate comparison search feature on their TripAdvisor review page.

Bogmalo, Mormugao, Goa

  • Casino Pearl is located in the luxury 5-star Bogmallo Beach Resort. This is one of the largest casinos in South Goa, and the only in Mormugao. This is a less exploited area with a beautiful beach. The entry fee is Rs. 500 and the games include live roulette, mini baccarat, blackjack, mini flush, tai sai and of course slot machines.

Sikkim Casinos

Sikkim is located in the Himalayan Mountains and borders Nepal, China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, and Bhutan. In spite of the fact there is no airport in the region, building a casino here did make sense. Many wealthy Indians traveled to nearby Nepal in order to gamble there. This was due to the fact that there were no options available in India, apart from Goa. Having watched the situation in Goa play out for a long period, the state government passed the laws required in 2008. By doing this, local government managed to attract more of India’s elite who had previously gone across the border to fulfill their gambling needs.

Casino Mahjong was the first to open in Sikkim in 2009 and is designed with a Tibetan spiritual theme. It’s located inside the Mayfair Hotel which is highly rated on TripAdvisor. They offer slot machines, roulette, blackjack, baccarat, Caribbean Stud Poker and a Texas Hold’em card room. They also offer a version of Paplu called Marriage, and three different version of Flush which are Indian Flush, Mini Flush and a Russian version called Kitty. Worth noting is all games use human dealers, as opposed to the electronic games found in Goa. There are also nightclubs with international dancers with themes ranging from contemporary and Arabic, to Egyptian and Retro.

mayfair hotel sikkim

The Mayfair Hotel in Sikkim plays home to Casino Mahjong, the largest in the state.

A small note for foreigners: visiting Sikkim requires obtaining a Restricted Area Permit (also known as Inner Line Permit). This is rather simple, can be processed in around 10-minutes with two passport-sized photos, and a simple application. This is however something you should plan on obtaining when mapping out your trip.

Punjab Casinos

At the time of writing this article, the only states in India with casino gambling are Goa and Sikkim. However, with the industry now maturing, states are beginning to recognize their legal rights to have their own gambling laws. Just as Sikkim has gotten in on the action, other Indian states are at least considering whether or not they should do the same. Currently, Sikkim is marketing primarily to the wealthy dual citizens from major cities. If a casino existed in these cities, the states could keep the revenue themselves.

The current biggest push is coming from Punjab’s deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Bada. He made his idea of building a casino in Mattewara –a village which is near Ludhiana – public in August 2012. In April 2013, he led a group of party legislators and ministers on a Goan retreat to discuss ideas. This same month he asked Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB) to draft a report on the feasibility of building a Las Vegas style casino in the state. The Economic Times recently quoted the deputy CM as saying:

“Punjab has a huge diaspora. These non-resident Indians come home and seek entertainment avenues like those found overseas. We would like Punjab to be like any other international destination.”

While he is no doubt very gung-ho about Punjab lacking recreational appeal, this may prove to be an uphill battle. Sikhism is the predominant faith in Punjab and gambling is against Sikh principles. It may be difficult to draw enough support; however it would bring much needed tax revenue. It will be interesting to see if the deputy CM will be successful in making Punjab the next Indian casino hotspot, or if another state will beat them to the punch.

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