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Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy. HT
Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy. HT

Andhra Pradesh proposes floating casinos off Vizag coast

  • With the state’s outstanding liabilities at 3.62 tn, the govt is looking at options beyond raising taxes

Andhra Pradesh is exploring the feasibility of floating casinos off the Visakhapatnam coast to generate resources amid a decline in revenue collections and funds transfer from the Centre, two people aware of the development said.

The state is looking to promote tourism through these floating casinos, on the lines of what Goa has done on the Mandovi river, the people said on condition of anonymity.

“The state has reached out to the Centre for these floating casinos off the Visakhapatnam coast," said a government official, one of the two people cited above.

Andhra Pradesh has a coastline of around 975 km along the Bay of Bengal and India’s territorial waters extend up to 12 nautical miles from the coast, where the floating casinos may operate.

The state tourism department in a statement has said that claims that Andhra is exploring the feasibility of casinos within Indian territorial waters off the Visakhapatnam coast to raise resources is incorrect.

Queries emailed by Mint before the story’s publication to seven senior officers in Andhra Pradesh chief minister’s office on 30 September remained unanswered.

Mint stands by its report.

The fund-starved state is also exploring the feasibility of raising resources through the lottery business, Mint had reported on 30 June. While only 13 states in India run lotteries, states such as Sikkim and Goa have allowed gambling.

In July last year, the Andhra Pradesh government released a white paper accusing the previous state government of misgovernance, financial mismanagement, and neglect of investment in human and physical capital. The revenue surplus, which was nearly 1% of gross state domestic product in 2006-07, declined to 0.24% in subsequent years, the white paper pointed out.

“The state doesn’t have any resources; hence, this initiative," said the first person.

There are limited avenues for states to raise taxes after the introduction of GST in 2017. With Andhra Pradesh’s outstanding liabilities at 3.62 trillion, the Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy government is looking at options beyond raising taxes on fuels, liquor and tobacco to offset revenue shortfalls because of the coronavirus lockdown. The state has already raised alcohol prices by 75% during the lockdown.

“Offshore casinos are being explored for some time now. Andhra Pradesh needs revenue and has a huge coastline that can be leveraged for promoting tourism," said a second person.

The state has also been exploring financial solutions to shore up revenues. A case in point is a plan to transfer the assets of state power generation companies and distribution companies to the Andhra Pradesh Power Finance Corp. Ltd to raise funds at competitive rates, which may also help clear its power sector dues, Mint reported on 16 January.

Tax collections of states took a hit during the prolonged lockdown, and the Centre’s GST revenues, too, collapsed, resulting in a double whammy for states. Centre and states collected 95,480 crore in GST revenue in September, indicating receipts from the tax on consumption were stabilizing.

However, concerns regarding economic recovery remain as India’s covid-19 death toll has crossed the 100,000 mark and the number of infections has surged past 6.5 million.

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