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Will Karnataka’s Tourism Department Allow Casinos in the State?

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C T Ravi

The Tourism Department of Karnataka is considering opening casinos in the state to boost tourism and generate revenue for the state. The state expects to attract international tourists through its Vegas-inspired gambling haven. 

As per a recent report in Deccan Herald, the state’s Tourism Minister C T Ravi spoke about various aspects of this project that is still in the conceptualisation stage. Ravi said, “We need to learn from cities like Las Vegas to attract and entertain tourists. Even today, international tourists who visit Karnataka fly away to Sri Lanka or Goa just because they allow gambling.”

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Ravi said that only international tourists will be allowed to gamble at the proposed station after the local public’s interest is protected. He said, the “gambling station would be a restricted one and it will be set up in such a manner that it only attracts (the) tourist crowd.”

However, after dissent from Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi, who said, “there is no need to convert Karnataka into a gambling den”, Ravi made a cautious comment stating, ‘”I am not supporting the idea directly. I bat for innovative ideas to promote tourism in the state. Only my reference to gambling stations has been highlighted in the media… Gambling Station is against the Indian culture. However, there is (a) need to prevent money from India being spent on gambling station(s) abroad,” he said, as per another report in Deccan Herald.

Ravi earlier said, “Since the government budgets prioritise food, education, sanitation, basic amenities and infrastructure, the Tourism Department has to come up with new ideas that have the potential to increase the revenue.”

The minister also earlier hinted that they are looking at developing the station with facilities at par with popular gambling destinations around the world. He said that the project will be investor-driven and the government will just formulate policies and monitor its operations.

About the location of the gambling station, Ravi added, “It will be allowed only at a particular place where the government approves.”

The opposition Congress party has however been quick to oppose the proposal and has condemned Ravi’s remarks, stating that allowing casinos in the state would be against the cultural heritage of Karnataka.

Recently, even Goa Ports Minister Michael Lobo  suggested allowing continuation of operations of casinos on Mandovi River in Goa and opening of new casinos on rivers like Chapora and Zuari to generate license and GST revenues for their state. Lobo also supports the idea of legalisation of the popular game of Matka in Goa to help shut off illegal Matka operations in the state and to fill government coffers.

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