Politicians jumble facts on casino gamble

| 08 January 2001 22:24 IST

Asia's first offshore casino with actual table games is yet to take off, but Goan politicians have been using it to turn the tables against each other, in order to win over the anti-Casino local sentiment.

'Casino Goa', the full-fledged casino on board the vessel, was actually initiated by the Congress. But as an opposition party, it has now started blaming the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party for finally allowing it.

The casino vessel worth Rs 11 crore owned by the Advani Pleasure Cruise Co Ltd, housing around 11 tables of American Roulette, Black Jack and 'Paplu' besides few electronic slot machines, would bring in revenue of around Rs one crore annually, against the licence fee and the jetty.

"I cannot cancel its license even if the BJP is against any kind of casino gambling, due to the financial damage it would cause if the company challenges it in the court", claims chief minister Manohar Parrikar.

Nirmala Sawant, the Goa PCC president, however dubs it as an excuse. In fact she suspects that Parrikar's decision not to allow any more casinos is a secret plan to monopolise Sunder Advani's sole casino in the whole Asian continent.

"If the BJP claims to be the saviours of the so called Indian culture and ethos, then they should try and stop it at all costs", she feels, while not denying Parrikar's charge that the whole process had begun during the erstwhile Congress regime.

In fact, former Congress chief minister Ravi Naik, who is the BJP Dy CM today, had in 1992 brought an amendment to the Goa Public Gambling Act by inserting a special section to allow electronic slot machines including roulette in five star hotels.

The licences were however issued only during the regime of his party successor Pratapsing Rane (the speaker today) in 1995 after framing the rules. Following this, Rane also amended the act further in 1996, allowing actual table games, amidst protests.

As the amendment was then not supported by change in rules due to public outcry, Rane however amended the rules to allow electronic slot machines on board the vessels and even licences were issued accordingly to Advani and the Goa-Bombay catamaran.

By changing the rules also to allow actual table games, the process of allowing live casino was once again initiated in 1999 by another Congress chief minister Luizinho Faleiro, who is the opposition leader today. Though he revolted against Faleiro's rule to lead a coalition government with the BJP, Francisco Sardinha made the final deal to allow the casino.

"I cannot reverse their decisions after making all the legal formalities", says Parrikar, during whose regime the casino has now started floating in the Goan waters. PCC chief Sawant however feels he could have very well stopped it by not permitting them to use the jetty, which is being permitted just one month ago.

Parrikar, on the other hand, now plans to impose 20 per cent luxury tax as well as other taxes, making it little costlier than what his predecessors had planned. Still, the minimum charge may not cross Rs 2000 per person, half of which would be returned to the gamblers in the form of tokens, beverages and meals.

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