Sardinha plans real casinos

| 04 August 2000 22:48 IST

Targeting high spending tourists from all over the World, Goa government is seriously considering the proposal of allowing full-fledged offshore casinos as well as golf course in spite of local opposition.

Though he is not in favour of full-fledged casinos on the land, chief minister Francisco Sardinha does not mind such casinos off the shore. "We will give the tourists what they want", he says.

Disclosing his policy to attract high spending tourists rather than depending all the time on the 'cheap tourists' Goa gets from charters or otherwise, Sardinha appears determined to go ahead with the facilities demanded for 'upmarket tourists'.

Though there is no concrete proposal for any full-fledged offshore casino, Sardinha also discloses that he has already received one proposal each in writing for a golf course and a race course.

Several environmental organisations as well as women organisations have however already opposed these proposals in the past. Incidentally, Sardinha's coalition partner – the Bharatiya Janata Party – has also vehemently opposed both casinos and golf courses.

But Sardinha is bent upon getting these proposals passed in the cabinet rather than going for public debate or inviting objections from general Goans. "You reach nowhere with such methods. Instead of that, my ministers will ask their people and then the cabinet would decide about it", he says.

He does not mind discussing the proposals with the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa and the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, but not sure whether he would also take various NGOs into confidence in this regard.

Goa has already amended the Goa Public Gambling Act, 1976 twice before, once in 1992 allowing electronic amusement games like roulette and poker etc in various five star hotels and then in 1996 to allow full-fledged offshore casinos with actual table games, during the Congress regime.

But following a state-wide movement waged by the NGOs and then opposition including the BJP as well as the local Church, the Congress government dropped the proposal for full-fledged casinos, but amended it in February 1997 to allow only electronic games on board the vessels.

It had even granted two licences to the Frank Shipping Company running a catamaran service from Bombay to Goa and Ramada Renaissance Resorts. While the catamaran service closed down soon after that, Ramada is reportedly still paying the rental while its ship is likely to start floating this year.

If Sardinha is determined to also allow actual table games on board the vessels, then he may have go back to the 1996 amendment, which stated that the act "authorises table games and gaming on board in vessels offshore, subject to conditions".

Sardinha's latest budget has hiked the license fee for electronic casinos in the five star hotels to Rs five lakh for a set of 20 machines while it is Rs 50 lakh for the offshore electronic casinos, besides the security deposit chargeable to one year's recurring fee, payable at the time of granting licences as well as renewal.

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