Live casino comes to Goa

| 28 December 2000 22:27 IST

The first ever-live gaming casino of Asia, floating in waters, will commence its operations in Goa from the first week of January, after a prolonged controversy over the issue.

Aboard 215 feet long 'The Caravela', a specially built ship worth Rs 11 crore, the Advani Pleasure Cruise Company Ltd will operate 'Goa Casino', a joint venture between Advani Hotels and Resorts (India) Ltd and Casino Austria International.

"It is a dream come true for us", says Sunder Advani, the chairman, as the local government finally agreed to change its earlier act of allowing only offshore electronic gaming to the live gaming in December last year.

The ship, which is named after the first Portuguese ship that came to Goa in the 16th century, houses four tables of American Roulette, six tables of Black Jack, one table of 'Paplu' (name for Rummy in India) and eight electronic slot machines, besides private gaming rooms.

After paying one-time deposit fee of Rs 50 lakh and similar amount towards licence fee annually, 'Goa Casino' would charge entrance fee of Rs 1600 for the morning sightseeing cruise (10.30 am to 4.30 pm), Rs 3000 for the sunset cruise (5.30 pm to 9.30 pm) and Rs 4000 for the dinner cruise (10 pm to 6 am).

While half of the amount would be redeemed as chips that can be played at the casino, the gamblers would be provided with meals on board together with soft drinks and beverages.

"Though not in size, it definitely has a glamour of La Vegas", claims Narinder Punj, the director representing Casinos Austria, which has an experience of operating 200 casinos in 24 countries and aboard 80 luxurious cruise liners in the world.

The extravagant ship built with imported fire-retardant interiors also houses a lavish restaurant with multi-cultural cuisine, a bar, barbecue area on the top deck, sundeck entertainment and a swimming pool. Two suits and six rooms are also provided with for the guests staying overnight.

Besides gaming, the cruise that can accommodate 300 gamblers would also take them for backwater sightseeing from Vasco harbour to Renaissance Goa Resort at Varca beach and a halt at Grand island opposite Vasco city.

According to Advani, this would attract a 'different element of people who never come down to Goa', helping the state economy as well as hotels suffering due to only 'backpacker' foreigners coming down to the tourist state.

Though the state authorities have made no legal provision to ban locals from entering the offshore casino like Nepal or put any ceiling on the lowest amount of entrance fees to be charged, Advani claims that it would not attract local crowd 'since the fees are quite high'.

Besides attracting foreigners for the morning sightseeing cruise, he is expecting all those Kathmandu-goer Indians who are in search of an alternative after the Kathmandu hijacking and banning notes of 500 denomination of Indian rupee.

While he admits that he is keeping his fingers crossed over the possibility of the Asia's first casino raising a controversy once again, Advani is quite happy that the BJP chief minister Manohar Parrikar has welcomed the casino. "In fact the BJP granted us permission for the Panaji jetty last month", he said.

As hardly any Goan was aware of the proposal of a full-fledged casino being cleared by the former coalition government of Francisco Sardinha and the BJP, state-wide protests over it once again however cannot be ruled out.

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