The India Cruise Lines Association (INCLA), which is backed by Rajya Sabha and Essel Group Chairman Subhash Chandra, is hoping to force government officials into allowing casinos on cruise ships. The organization has contacted the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), “demanding” a number of concessions and law changes that will boost the cruise tourism and shipping market segments.
Jurgen Bailom, an official with the INCLA, indicates that the group is pushing for a reduction in the goods and service tax (GST) rates that apply to goods and services on cruise ships, as well as a reduction for tax holidays and additional single window clearances. He also asserts that the group is demanding that existing entertainment and gambling laws be amended as they pertain to casinos, gaming activity and entertainment on cruise ships within India’s territorial waters.
An unidentified cruise line operator told the Indian DNA media outlet, “Currently, these services are provided to the cruise passengers while the cruise ship is beyond 12 / 200 nautical miles from the Indian coastline since these entertainment and gambling laws do not tend to apply beyond 12 / 200 nautical miles. However, while the cruise ship is within the Indian territory, cruise liners are unable to provide gaming, entertainment and casino services to the passengers and meet their expectations.”
Similar demands were made by the INCLA to Nitin Gadkari, the Union Minister for Shipping, Road Transport, Highways, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, this past August. It would appear that the demands didn’t have the impact the group had hoped for at the time, leading them to reach out directly to the PMO.
The INCLA also wants the government to amend parts of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy in order to allow foreign investments in cruise vessel casinos.
The Essel Group has strong ties to gaming and lotteries in India. It markets state lotteries under the “Playwin” brand and runs both fantasy sports and online poker websites. It also tried to operate an offshore casino, the Maharajah Casino, in Goa’s Mandovi River, but couldn’t secure a license after trying for a number of years.
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Subsequently, it decided to lease its vessel to GoldenGlobe Hotels, a company run by Haryana political figure Gopal Kanda.