Strike Casino is good news. With the opening of this casino in July 2016, the casino industry in Goa has finally come of age, well almost. And the most interesting aspect of this development is the fact that Goa's best gaming experience will now be provided by an overland casino as opposed to the so-called "off-shore" casinos that promise "live gaming". Gambling in Strike is as live as it can get in an overland casino in Goa, without inviting some legal objection from the authorities. The people who operate Strike have used both their expertise and imagination in creating a casino that is far better than any other casino in Goa whether floating or overland. Deltin Royale has got itself a first real competitor and casino goers have got their first real alternative to Deltin Royale. The list of positives in Strike is very long and I will cover everything in detail in this article, but first of all I want to get the only negative out of the way - the location. Keep reading...
|Strike Casino at Grand Hyatt Hotel in Bambolim Goa|
Strike Casino Bambolim Goa Location
In one way the location is good because Strike shares its premises with one of Goa's finest five star hotels - Grand Hyatt. But in another way, it is bad because unless one is using own vehicle, getting to Strike costs INR 400 by taxi one-way, just to cover the seven kilometre distance from Panjim Bus Station. The route is like this: the taxi takes a right turn after about six kilometres on the Panjim - Dabolim Airport Road, and comes to the road going towards Dona Paula. From there another left turn leads to Bambolim.
Coming back from the casino may cost even more than INR 400 because the choice of cabs outside the casino building is limited and one will have to pay whatever the taxi guys demand. There is a solution to this: getting a free drop courtesy the casino. They gave me a free drop on both the nights I went there but one needs to play for a while and then demand the free drop from the casino staff while still playing at a gaming table. In other words, they will watch your game and say "yes" or "no" to a free drop to Panjim. I personally think that they should give a free drop to Panjim for each and every guest. An example of this service is Casino Mahjong in Sikkim which is located away from Gangtok. Mahjong makes sure that each of their guests gets a free ride back to their hotel in Gangtok.
[Update (October 2016): During my visit to the casino in October 2016, I found that they are now offering free drop to guests staying in Panjim / Dona Paula. That's good.]
Staying in Bambolim may not be a viable option for many because the only hotel in the vicinity of the casino apart from Grand Hyatt is Bambolim Beach Resort. The area outside looks like a village.
Ukrainian Girls Dancing at Strike Casino Goa - Watch YouTube Video
Strike Casino Entry Fee and Timings
Strike is open 24 hours and there is a single entry fee package - INR 2500 during weekends. Guests get to order free drinks (hard/soft) and snacks (veg/non-veg) from the gaming tables and there is a free buffet dinner in the casino restaurant for all. There is some live entertainment also in the restaurant every evening. The INR 2500 package also comes with four OTP chips of INR 500 each that can be used on Roulette, Baccarat, and Money Wheel tables. The compulsory INR 1000 government levy receipt is also part of the INR 2500 entry ticket. The reception desk at the entrance issues the entry token and then the guests are required to pay the entry fee (in cash only) at the cashier counter inside. Entry fee during weekdays is INR 2000 and there is a happy hour package that is even cheaper if you enter the casino before 5.00pm.
The daily night-time entertainment in the restaurant (9.30pm onwards) is offered by a Nepalese dance troupe, some singers & musicians, and four young ladies from Ukraine who dance rather well. I recorded the above video during one of their performances. When not dancing, these ladies are on the gaming floor, sometimes chatting with the guests and sometimes even dealing cards at gaming tables.
Use of Credit / Debit Cards & ATM
Credit / Debit / ATM cards can be used inside for buy-ins but there is a catch. The card swipe machines used in the casino are of HDFC bank and my Citibank Credit Card got declined there. The casino staff were not able to say why the card got declined or which banks' cards would be honoured. So if you planning on using only your credit card for all buy-ins in Strike, better beware. ATMs are installed in the casino.
Quality of Food and Drinks
The quality of snacks, buffet, and the drinks are really nice, much better than anything that Deltin Royale throws at its guests. The service is also very good except for the time taken for serving the snack orders. I was told that they make everything fresh so the guest is required to wait for 10-15 minutes after placing orders for the snacks to be served at the gaming tables. Drinks are served in proper glasses and the cocktails are prepared nicely, according to the recipes. Try ordering a Virgin Mary in Deltin Royale and you will know what I mean. The Virgin Mary I got in Strike was just perfect.
Gaming in Strike Casino
Let us start with the ambiance. It looks awesome, particularly if one is tired of fighting for a seat at the gaming tables among the railway platform type crowd in Deltin Royale. Gaming in Strike takes place on three different floors. The main floor, right behind the entrance, is the low bet floor where bets start at INR 200 on card games and INR 100 on Roulette. At the back-end of the hall is a majestic staircase that goes down to the luxuriously appointed basement where there are high-limit tables (INR 500 - 1000+) and also the restaurant / entertainment, etc. There is another VIP level in-between the two.
The casino started with almost all the basic card games - Blackjack, Baccarat, Mini Flush, Andar Bahar, Roulette, Sic Bo, Money Wheel, Casino War, and Teen Patti Indian Flush. Notable among those missing were Three Card Poker and Five Card Poker. Slot machines are expected later as are some other card games. They have enough floor space to start whatever they want.
There are four slot machines in the casino (October 2016) out of which two have Baccarat and the other two a multi-line video slot game. The slot machines pay very little and are best avoided. Actually, slot machines do not pay well in any casino in Goa. People in Strike Casino told me that more slot machines are on the way.
How Live Is The Gaming
I am afraid to say it but the gaming in many of the over-land casinos in Goa is not fully honest. The automatic card sorting machines and the fully digital gaming machines being used in many of the overland casinos do not appear to be random but instead seem programmed to guarantee a cushy profit for the casino. Fortunately it is not so in Strike. There is no fully digital gaming machine in Strike Casino and no automatic card shuffling either. All card shuffling here is manual. However, to satisfy the regulation of mechanised gaming in overland casinos, Strike uses card shoes with built-in card sensors that send an image of the card being dealt to the video screen in front of the player. Card themselves are dealt face down. The sensors are totally accurate. On a Blackjack table, I could see the cards being turned around whenever there was a malfunction or a player/dealer mistake. The actual cards were exactly the same as their images being shown on the screens. Bets are placed with actual gaming chips but decisions like 'Stay'. 'Hit', 'Double', and 'Split' are to be executed by touching buttons on the video screens.
More Honest Than Deltin Royale (July 2016)
This is true. The Money Wheel in Strike pays highest wins at 47:1 and 23:1 as compared to the 40:1 and 20:1 that Deltin Royale pays. In Strike Blackjack, the dealer stays on 'Soft 17' whereas in Deltin Royale, dealer draws another card on their 'Soft 17'. This Blackjack rule favours Deltin Royale.
The overall atmosphere in Strike Casino was very lively as I saw it but that was a weekend. During weekdays, it will be better to go there during peak hours - after 7.00pm. I played there upto 2.00am and the upper floor was still almost full. But if you do not like too much crowd in a casino, Strike is wonderful at any hour. Only serious players will likely go all the way to Bambolim to play in a casino and therefore, the annoying spectators who stand behind the players in popular casinos are missing in Strike, thank God. Slot Machines and more table games will get added soon after which Strike will see more visitors. This casino is the first in Goa that offers a glimpse of how casino gaming should be conducted. And their guests seem happy. From the initial response that I saw, I can say that Strike Casino is already a winner.
|Posted by Narinder Singh|