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Home > News > PTI

Off-shore casinos trigger on-shore debates in Goa

Rupesh Samant in Panaji | September 04, 2007 15:39 IST

Off-shore casinos, a gambling den onboard a ship, has sparked off a debate in Goa [Images] with different opinions being expressed for and against the new licenses.     

Goa, India's only state where off-shore casinos are permitted, already has a off-shore casino operational on a ship near Panaji city. The casino run by Advani group of hotels is a crowd puller especially on weekends and holidays.

While this casino was accepted by the locals, controversy erupted when a second such casino, planned by the Leela group, took shape in south Goa.

The casino, feel the Cavelossim villagers, where it is anchored, is blocking the movement of fishing trawlers. Besides, the operation to dredge Sal river is also being objected as it affects the marine life.

The movement, which began on a small note, has taken a larger proportion with the local catholic church chipping in with its support.

The politicians have kept mum over the topic. Goa Chief Minister Digamber Kamat and chief secretary J P Singh, who visited the disputed site, too have not given their stand on the controversy.

It was the BJP which initially objected to setting up of casinos in the state last year. Then Chief Minister Pratapsingh Rane had advertised for six off-shore casinos in the state.

The saffron political party had objected to such huge influx of casinos, which according to them, will roll out red carpet welcome to gamblers, money launderers, mafias and prostitution rackets in the peaceful state, which is frequented by 23 lakh tourists every year.

The BJP, however, did not touch the issue during its June two Goa polls campaigning.

Goa Chief Minister Kamat confirmed that the state will go ahead with its policy and will issue licenses to five casinos in the state.

"We will process six applications and amongst those, first five who manage to get the ship would be given licenses," the chief minister stated.

The tourism industry in the state has kept their fingers crossed over the entire matter. While Finance Minister Dayanand Narvekar boasted of earning Rs 3 crore annually through casinos, Home Minister Ravi Naik pointed out that Rs 5 crore will be taken as license fee from casinos.

The figures may look whopping for the small state like Goa but the tourism industry has expressed reservation on the entire issue.

"Hardly five per cent of the tourists arriving in Goa will go for off-shore casinos," Ralf de Souza, president, travel and tourism association of Goa, told PTI.

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