Goa’s Offshore Casinos on the Brink of All-Out Turf War; Increased Competition May Help Revive the Golden Era of Live Poker in India

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  • Attreyee K. Ganguly May 10, 2019
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The gaming capital of India, Goa has a multitude of casinos, both land-based and offshore, and is also the birthplace of poker in the country. The industry is mainly dominated by Delta Corp. which is India’s only BSE listed company engaged in the casino business. The company not only has casinos in the coastal state, namely Deltin Royale, Deltin JAQK and Deltin Caravela but has also established roots in the hilly state of Sikkim with the Deltin Denzong. The Mumbai-based hospitality firm also has plans to offer live and electronic gaming at its 5-star resort ‘The Deltin’ in the union territory of Daman and Diu and is waiting for the Union Territory administration to grant a casino license to the company.

Delta successfully launched its in-house live poker tournament, Deltin Poker Tournament (DPT), in 2016 and the brand has now created two sub-brands – DPT Colossus which caters to the high rollers and DPT Xpress which is mainly aimed at low-to-mid stakes players. Not only that, after acquiring Gaussian Network, the parent company of online poker site Adda52.com, Delta rebranded the poker room onboard the Deltin Royale to Adda52 Live Poker Room. Besides hosting its own tournament series, Adda52 and Delta even brought in one of the biggest global poker brands to India – World Poker Tour in 2017.

While Delta is clearly the industry leader in Goa’s live casino scene, the brand is likely to face stiffer competition from the likes of the Pride Group of Casinos and Hotels and new entrant Haryana politician Gopal Kanda’s Golden Globe Hotels Private Limited’s (GGHPL). While the Pride Group runs Casino Pride I and II, GGHPL used to own the Casino Maharaja. Both companies have become serious competitors for Delta by acquiring bigger and better vessels this year.

On May 9, GGHPL’s newest vessel Big Daddy grandly launched its operations with the announcement of an 11-day extravaganza. In the meantime, the Pride II replaced its older, smaller ship with a bigger one acquired by the Pride Group last year. As per reports, both the new vessels can give Deltin Royale a run for its money both in terms of player capacity and facilities offered. With the Pride Group and GGHPL rearing to take a bite out of Delta’s market share, an all-out turf war among the three is an inevitability.


Delta Corp. – Market Leader

Delta Corp. began its operations in Goa in 2015 and in 2016, the state government extended the company’s offshore casino license to operate casinos on the Mandovi River until March 31, 2017. At present, the company operates three offshore casinos in the state – Deltin Royale, Deltin JAQK and Deltin Caravela.

Deltin Royale
Deltin Royale

Apart from its properties in Goa, Delta also has a presence in the north-east in the form of the Casino Deltin Denzong and is fighting to establish itself in Daman and Diu where the company launched The Deltin – which is India’s largest integrated casino resort in the Union Territory. Delta is awaiting the sanction of its casino license by the Union Territory administration. After waiting for a license for almost 2 years, Daman Hospitality Private Limited, a subsidiary of Delta, submitted a writ petition in the Bombay High Court on December 31, 2018, asking the court to direct the Union Territory administration to grant a casino license to the company under Section 13A of the Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act, 1976.

Until recently, Casino Deltin Royale was the largest floating casino in India and the venue for some of the biggest live poker tournaments in the country including the brand’s in-house DPT tournaments and WPT India. With competitors upping the ante, Delta has also increased the frequency of tournaments off late.

The third edition of the DPT Xpress was recently announced and is slated to run from June 6 to 9, however, for the very first time, the series will be held onboard the Deltin JAQK. This will be the fourth DPT series of the year and the third to be hosted in Goa. While the previous two editions of the DPT Xpress were hosted in Delta’s Sikkim-based property, Casino Deltin Denzong, the brand seems to have decided to relocate the series to Deltin JAQK following a lukewarm response in the north-eastern state.


Enter Big Daddy Casino

In the present political scenario, the probability of a new vessel obtaining a license to enter Goan waters is highly unlikely. But GGHPL got around this provision of obtaining a new license as it already had one albeit expired. The casino operator’s license had expired back in September 2016 resulting in the company having to shell out ₹46 crores in fines to renew the license. At the time of the license expiration, GGHPL was in the process of launching Goa’s sixth offshore casino on the MV Lucky Seven vessel. But it was not meant to be as the MV Lucky Seven got stuck at a sandbar in Miramar beach and needed extensive repairs, thereby delaying the launch.

Big Daddy Casino
Big Daddy Casino

The Big Daddy, which had entered Madovi waters two months ago, is the updated version of the MV Lucky Seven. With Casino Big Daddy getting a significant upgrade by relocating to a new vessel, the venue advantage that Delta held in Goa has diminished substantially.

The casino operator had announced an 11-day extravaganza to mark the commencement of operations onboard the Big Daddy starting from May 9 to 19. The celebrations will also see Bollywood celebrities like Sanjay Dutt, Amisha Patel, Shamita Shetty make an attendance.

According to reports, the Big Daddy has moved to a specially commissioned 72-meter-long and 24-meter-wide Panamanian vessel that is comparable, if not better than what Deltin Royale has to offer. Offering a regal ambiance to its visitors and providing various table games round-the-clock, the casino houses 110 tables in an area of around 50,000 square feet spread over three decks. All the national and internationally played games such as Indian flush to games such as American Roulette, Blackjack, etc. and various variants of poker are all available for avid gamers.

Further on, since May 2018, the poker room in Big Daddy is being run by the founding team of the India Poker Championship (IPC). An interesting fact is that the same group used to run the operations of Deltin Royale’s poker room before Delta’s acquisition of Adda52. With the casino now moving to a brand-new vessel with a more spacious poker room, the possibility of the revival of the IPC series, that enjoyed immense popularity in India before going on a hiatus in 2016, cannot be discounted.

In an official statement, Narinder Punj, Chief Visionary Officer and Mentor of Big Daddy averred, “Big Daddy Casino is all set to revolutionize the gaming industry and redefine the rules of offshore gaming. We firmly believe that Big Daddy Casino will immensely contribute to the growth of tourism of Goa. We look forward to working towards our goal of establishing Goa into a Global offshore Gaming and Entertainment destination.”


Pride II Emerging as a Worthy Competitor

While not quite as dominating as Delta, the Pride Group is still a prominent presence in the Goan casino industry and has for some time now been Delta’s closest competitor. With two ships under its belt, Pride I and II, the brand is also quite popular among avid poker players, and most of the credit for this goes to Madhav “Maddy” Gupta.

Casino Pride
Casino Pride

Poker was a late entrant in the casino after a group of patrons, namely Sachin Pawa, Gurpreet Bakshi and Madhav ‘Maddy’ Gupta, took over the poker room at Pride and set up SOL Poker Room. The poker room has played host to several live poker tournaments including two editions of the PokerGuru Tour and four editions of the Aces Unlimited series.

Eventually, Gupta bought out his partners which led to the renaming of the poker room to the Pride Poker Room. Following Gupta founding the online gaming site Baadshah Gaming, the Pride Group decided to invest in the venture and eventually rebranded the poker room to Baadshah Gaming Live Poker Room. The renaming led to the launch of the Baadshah Gaming Live Tournament (BLT) which was held at its namesake poker room and has conducted three editions till date with the last edition running from October 4 to 7, 2018.

In November 2018, the Pride Group purchased the casino vessel Argosy IV which was bigger and better than both its active ships and was to replace one of its older vessels. Though both casinos are presently operational, only Pride I currently has a functioning poker room. The new boat replaced the older Pride II ship, and while it does not have a functional poker room yet, it is definitely on the cards.

PokerGuru got into touch with Gupta; however, he did not divulge details on the capacity of the poker room that will be operational in the new vessel. “The new poker room at Pride II is being redesigned currently. Announcements for that can only be post that.”

Nevertheless, there is a definite possibility of the BLT making a comeback on the newer Pride II, or it may even become a neutral and viable venue for other online operators like PokerBaazi or PokerStars.

Gupta, who has been running the poker room at Casino Pride for nearly a decade, commenting on the launch of the Big Daddy poker room onboard the new vessel said, “I wish the Spartan Poker team the best of luck in this new venture of theirs. The team is an old hand in the industry and having worked with them during the UPC/IPC tourney I see great things coming for the players. More competition is great for the industry. It keeps brands like ours alive to be proactive and what can I say, it’s a great time to be a player today.”


Offshore Casino Majors of Goa – Heading to an Imminent War

Signs of an imminent, all-out turf war are already here. Delta Corp has mapped up big plans and has previously hosted nearly four live poker tournament series in five months. Also, Pride Group and GGHPL are ready to make a big splash in the industry with their new and improved ships.

Nonetheless, the intense competitor between these three big players can only lead to bigger and better things for the poker community. With Adda52 and Deltin, Spartan and Big Daddy, as well as Baadshah Gaming and Pride II, vying to claim a more significant share of the domestic market, poker players can look forward to a lot more offers, promotions and live tournaments which will ultimately benefit in the growth and development of the mind sport in India.

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