‘Both Congress, BJP responsible for Goa casinos’

Panaji, April 18 (IANS) Both the Congress and the BJP were equally responsible for promoting casinos in Goa, although both parties opposed these when in opposition, a recently declassified US diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks claims.

The cable, part of the US embassy’s weekly compilation of “economic highlights”, also says the Goa government’s grand plan was to lure Indian gamblers who went to Nepal’s casinos to splurge.

“The Congress party was the first to allow gambling in Goa, when in 1992 it amended the Goa Public Gambling Act to allow slot machines in five-star hotels. Later, table games were permitted offshore, during the tenure of Congress chief minister Pratapsingh Rane,” says the cable (serial number NEW DELHI 00000982 002.2 OF 004) dated April 3, 2008.

“The BJP opposed these developments at the time. Nevertheless, after coming to power in Goa, BJP chief minister Manohar Parrikar (during his earlier tenure from 2000 to 2004) granted a license for Casino Goa to commence operations,” the cable says.

Parikkar is the present chief minister after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) defeated the Congress in the Goa assembly polls held in 2012.

The cable observes that Goa’s economy is highly dependent on tourism and the state government was hoping that granting five offshore casino licenses will further boost tourism.

It recounts that Goa’s biggest casino Casino Royale, would be located on a ship which will feature rooms and suites to accommodate guests.

“Jaydev Mody, Highstreet Cruises director, stated that the casino will be all-inclusive with slot machines, restaurants, entertainment areas and live music. In the next seven to eight months, Goa plans to construct four other offshore casinos as the state government tries to lure Indian gamblers back to India from Nepal where casinos have been legalised,” it says.

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