The Great Gamblers!

By Sandesh Prabhudesai
25 April 2010 22:11 IST

Goa IS a gamblers' den. And it's well protected by those, who should actually protect it FROM gambling. Yes, of course, our politicians and their bureaucratic ‘authorities'.

It's a truth, beyond doubt. The standard of politicians has reached such a level that they defend gambling publicly.

Until yesterday, few politicians were trying to protect the gambling business in Goa - of all kind - without letting know the public their involvement. Today, they dare to defend it publicly.

Panchayat minister Babu Azgaonkar is the latest case. He made a public speech at a village function in Pedne, defending the gambling at feasts.

According to Babu, gambling at feasts (zatra) is a great tradition of Goa. He criticised the police for trying to stop it. Taking a step ahead, he even appealed to the people to rise against this ‘injustice'.

Few months ago, I had a debate on casinos on Prudent. Vishnu Wagh, a local general secretary of Congress and a writer, had made a similar argument. He had found nothing wrong with casinos but a new step of taking ahead our rich tradition of gambling that takes place at zatra.

This is the way Vishnu had described it proudly, "when we were given two rupees to spend at the zatra, our parents told us: spend one rupee for buying toys etc and the other one is to play gambling."

This ‘rich tradition' has become a major business in North Goa today. I am told that the gambling agents even sponsor some zatra and have even donated huge amount of money to renovate some temples.

The tables (patt) put up at these jatra are not less than hundred. I have personally witnessed it at Siolim Jagor, may be around two decades ago. I was shocked to see the glittered area, with one petromax at each table.

Goa is developing. Similarly our gambling ‘tradition'. Babu Azgaonkar has become official voice of this traditional gambling. There are many more politicians, belonging to all political parties, supporting him.

There is Mandrem Nagarik Samiti and few newspapers and TV channels opposing and exposing this. But their voice is faint. The powerful rulers simply cannot hear it....

The South is no different. Especially in Salcete, Mormugao and Tiswadi, Dhiryo is one such event. While around 3000 people watched the bullfights, equally large number played Goddgoddo outside, on hundreds of tables.

DhiryoIn 1996, the high court banned Dhiryo in Goa. Churchill Alemao, today's PWD minister and then South Goa MP, was the first one to try to get the central act against cruelty to animals amended. He, the former CM, didn't succeed.

Now, yet another former CM and today's South Goa MP Francisco Sardinha is trying for the amendment in the Parliament.

The high court judgement had clearly stated: "these bull fights, though initially were organised as mere fun, is now being associated with gambling and betting. It has become a commercial business at the cost of cruelty to the animals as well as occasionally to the human beings..."

In spite of this, Dhiryo today continues illegally in Salcete with full support of few Salcete-based ministers. If you complain at the police station, they reach there exactly after Dhiryo is over, the filmy style...

Meanwhile, the Goa Assembly has unanimously passed a legislation, allowing Dhiryo, though they simply did not have any authority to do so. It included the Congress, the BJP, the MGP, the UGDP and even the independents.

Hard to believe that none of them knew that Dhiryo also means gambling. Also, the legislation they passed did not have a single word against Goddgoddo...

This was not the first time Goa Assembly was allowing gambling. In 1992, then chief minister Ravi Naik (today's home minister) had succeeded in getting the Goa Public Gambling Act, 1976 amended, to allow electronic casinos in five star hotels.

Those who were alert, shouted: this is a backdoor entry for real casinos in Goa. The promoters in the ruling seats rubbished it. Today, it is THE truth!

While the high court banned Dhiryo in 1996, the same year, then chief minister Pratapsingh Rane (today's Assembly speaker) moved second amendment to the same act, to allow real casino on board the vessels.

The process got delayed due to public protests, but almost all the politicians got together to make the offshore casinos a reality. After the Congress government was toppled, the rebels led by then chief minister Francisco Sardinha, supported by the BJP by participating in his government, did the first service to the people of Goa. The very next day after he was sworn in, on 25 November 1999, Sardinha approved the notification moved by his predecessor Luizinho Faleiro, allowing Goa's first offshore casino.

Today, we see around 10 casino vessels in river Mandovi. None of them is offshore, in the sea. On the other hand, we have seen our tourism minister Mickky Pacheco playing actual table games at the casinos in five star hotels. The electronic slot machines are simply on the paper....

Few years ago, when I was with Sunaparant, we had exposed the rampant Goddgoddo running on the roads of Madgao station road and on Colva beach. One of the main person behind it was a police driver.

It stopped for a while after the newspaper campaign. Even the police driver was suspended. He has been reinstated today. The Goddgoddo is off the roads, but on inside the four walls. This is the fate of chief minister Digambar Kamat's constituency.

And just last week, Prudent telecast a story of matka going online. We asked home minister Ravi Naik for his comment. You know what was his comment?

"What's matka? I don't know what it means."

Next day, we caught hold a small boy, around 10 to 12 years, asking him to show where matka bit is ‘taken'. He instantly took our reporter there. Prudent also showed few matka tables in his own Ponda constituency.

Poor Ravi! Even a child knows where matka is played. But the ‘innocent' home minister doesn't even know what matka means...

Surprisingly, next day, few matka agents were raided while no one was seen taking matka bit anywhere in Panaji. Obviously, this eyewash would remain for a few days and the business would boom once again... as usual!

The reality is well established.

The politicians come together to allow all kind of gambling in Goa, including Casinos and Dhiryo. The tourism minister himself ‘plays' at Casino. The panchayat minister publicly defends gambling at zatra. The home minister plays innocent about matka and then raids few matka agents as an eye wash. New casinos are still coming in, obviously with political blessings.

Do I need to say anything more to prove that Goa IS a gambling den?

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Sandesh Prabhudesai

Sandesh Prabhudesai is a journalist, presently the Editor of, Goa's oldest exclusive news website since 1996. He has earlier worked as the Editor-in-Chief of Prudent & Goa365, Goa's TV channels and Editor of Sunaparant, besides working as a reporter for Goan and national dailies & weeklies in English and Marathi since 1987. He also reports for the BBC. He is also actively involved in literary and cultural activities. After retirement from day-to-day journalism in 2020, he is into Re-Search Journalism (पुनर्सोद पत्रकारिता), focusing on analytical articles, Video programs & Books.

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Previous Comments

One should not be surprised to see the politicians do any thing to garner votes and to make extra money! This could include, gambling, smuggling, crimes, drug peddling, prostitution and what not! On the other hand they would give big talks of morality, ethics, values, and Gandhiji's principles! They would never miss the opportunity to garland Gandhiji's statue even when all their actions and deeds are completely opposite to Gandhian Philosophy! How many more years this fooling will go on? Is our society degenerated to such an extent that all this hypocrisy can go on uninterrupted?

- vishwas prabhudesai, loliem | 30 th April 2010 06:56


“Jugar khellon konn feliz zala?” till date no one has become happy and settled in life gambling. Gambling has only caused unlimited sorrows to people. People have committed suicides, home and families have been destroyed. This addiction of gambling is very, very bad norm of life. No one has been satisfied from gambling. Play games like caroms, volley ball, table tennis, football etc. Even “Mendi cot” is not bad if played for time pass without using money and bettings. It can be played within families, friends etc. What has the casinos brought to Goa. Nothing but filth which was not heard of in Goa. Gambling is highly risky and dangerous like I said above. Goans avoid it. Matka is also very very bad, even for zatras and kales the gambling of dices etc is bad. One day is enough to ruin lives. Goans please take care of this and let us unite and do away with this menace of gambling – Menino (Valpoi)

- Menino G. P. T. Fernandes (Valpoi/UK), United Kingdom of Great Britain | 29 th April 2010 21:53


The Gambling is getting to Goa's nerve. Playing at zatra occasionally is different to being addicted to gambling.

Today Goans are getting addicted.

The same Goans who complain about bhaile are funding these gambling things without realizing that most of this businesses and for that mater even dhiryo are filling the pockets of this bhaile and Goa is loosing its hard earned revenue.

Some thing which has traditional backing does not mean that it is good.

I hope at least Babu Azgaokar knows this better than any one else being the leader of backward castes in Goa.

- Mark, Margao | 29 th April 2010 18:21


What about making gambling legal?

i raise this question because in goa Gambling is everywhere, one can see Gaddas of Mataka each and every town and villages and some of the so-called prominenat people are involved in it and now Ministers are supporting it in open .

I have seen some elected representatives are aslo involved in this busines and every one is aware of this business(including school children). And if someone complains about it, then justification comes that it creates employment, it is livelihood to many people, etc. Adminsistration has no control over this illegal activity. It's done in open. So why not legalise and earn some revenue for infrastracture development? Alredy government's major source of revenue of indirect tax comes from selling of tobacco product, liquor and casinos.

- Sanjay Sawant Dessai, Curchorem Goa | 29 th April 2010 09:03


When the people themselves want it there is nothing much others who oppose it can do... at least that is my experience in Goa. Rich or Poor ask any person to do something rational and without falling a prey to the system ..I am sure the person ends up calling me "an Idiot" or "Change with the time"

So when the locals want to play Matka and make money out of it .. or any other illegal game ...lets face it will be tough to get them under the radar.

I personally feel ... Allow such businesses with proper or rather strict norms ..i.e. Keep them 15 kms at least away from the city and residential areas & schools.

Then make minor entries to this place unaffordable... so only the rich who want to squander their money can do it.

And most importantly get them under the Income Tax and Sales Tax scanner to a near perfect accuracy... that way the Goa Govt will have more revenue rather than it going into illegal hands which those Goons use to end up in important chairs in the Municipality, Panchayat, Assembly & Parliament.

I think it is pointless to blame 40 corrupt sitting MPs or even Opposition which are also hand in glove when the rest 0.5 million of the population wants it, approve of it and also are an integral part of it.

Finally these businesses are just tip of the iceberg ..if start talking about more worst ones we will be surprised Goa has it ALL.

- Amit, Goa | 26 th April 2010 09:09


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