One gaming operator to watch in 2021 will be India’s Delta Corp., whose stock got a mid-month bump in December after it announced it had received approval in principle to build an integrated resort on shore in Goa.
The company is India’s largest and only listed casino operator and holds three of the six offshore licenses in Goa’s Mandovi River. It also has a casino in the northern state of Sikkim, is expanding into Nepal and has an integrated resort in the Union Territory of Daman for which it’s awaiting a casino license.
In addition, Delta also owns online poker and cards company Adda52, giving it a significant position in the booming online gaming market.
However, the news the company will push ahead with a resort in Pernem in northern Goa may be a game changer for the industry in the country. Investors thought so, pushing its shares up more than 3 percent on the day of the announcement.
The company will transfer all of its offshore operations to the new resort, which will include hotels, a water park, retail, a convention center and a multiplex cinema. Delta specified that the IR will have an “electronic” casino, indicating however that the government has not yet changed its stance when it comes to offering table games in land-based properties.
“The project is expected to boost tourism, employment and infrastructure of the state of Goa.”
Delta has acquired about 100 acres of land in Pernem, and expects the cost of shifting its operations from its floating casinos to be between 1,200 and 1,500 crore.
“The integrated resort is expected to be one of its kind in the country,” Delta said. “The project is expected to boost tourism, employment and infrastructure of the state of Goa.”
India is seen as one of the most promising gaming destinations in Asia. Online skill-based gaming is legal and booming, despite court challenges at the state-level in several areas. Its tourism sector is also expanding as consumer spending power grows, with a 25.3 percent jump in domestic visits to individual states in 2019
Delta now has more than 2,000 gaming positions in India. It’s also expanding its operation in Sikkim following the opening of the Pakyong Airport, which has greatly improved accessibility to the remote area.
It received a license to open at the Marriott Hotel in Kathmandu in Nepal in January last year, when it said operations would begin “soon,” before the Covid-19 crisis took hold.
Delta describes its luxury resort in Daman as being “casino ready,” but it still has not received government approval more than six years after opening.
Despite that, Chairman Jaydev Modi said prior to the pandemic that its hotels in Goa and Daman were breaking even at an EBITDA level, as the latter is the only five-star property in the region and is being seen as a weekend getaway.
“It has fast emerged as a perfect destination for large-scale weddings and also caters to the MICE segment,” he said.
In 2019, the company also entered the gaming cruise industry through a $10 million investment in the Essel Group’s Jalesh Cruises, under which it will become the preferred partner for gaming centres and casinos on all their cruise liners.
In the online sphere, it added to its portfolio with an investment into fantasy gaming portal HalaPlay.
As with nearly all other casino operators, Covid-19 put a dent in the company’s rapid growth in 2020. The casinos were shuttered in March and reopened for operations in the first week of November.
“The general expectations are that normalcy could be gradually restored by the end of financial year 2020-2021,” Delta said, after reporting it had swung to a loss of Rs2.05 in the three months to end-September, compared with a profit of Rs 2.18 in the same period a year earlier.
Meghalaya to regulate online gaming
The state of Meghalaya has approved an ordinance to regulate online gaming to raise revenue. Cabinet Minister James Sangma said gaming today has emerged as one of the most popular pastimes globally and Meghalaya is no exception, and the decision was also taken after taking the views of the law and finance departments.
“In order to regulate gaming within the state and to bring revenue to the state government, we felt it necessary to enact a law for the same, and therefore, the cabinet has approved the draft ordinance,” he said.
Industry pushes for regulation for all skill games
India’s online skill gaming industry has collectively recommended a policy think tank of the Indian national government, NITI Aayog, to establish a new institution to standardize regulations governing the whole of the skill-based industry and not just fantasy sports. Sameer Barde, CEO of The Online Rummy Federation issued a statement noting, “It is a brilliant move to have fair regulations for the online skill gaming industry in India… But at the same time, it is paramount to understand that fantasy games are only a part of the entire skill gaming industry. There is an equal, if not a larger need, to regulate the broader skill gaming industry.” The industry is arguing that a national regulatory body can ensure that taxes are fairly paid and that illegal operators can be identified and eliminated. This would be of significant economic benefit to the public.