Goa fighting shy of promoting casinos, says Official

Friday, October 15, 2010

PANAJI - It’s a paradox of sorts. As casino operators took centre stage at the much touted International Travel Mart (ITM) Goa, which began Thursday, a top tourism department official admitted that Goa is fighting shy of whole-heartedly promoting casinos in its official tourism agenda.

Speaking to IANS, Goa Tourism Development Corporation managing director Nikhil Desai said the casino industry was not a highlight of the state’s tourism agenda. This despite the fact that it is the only state in India to host the offshore and onshore casino industry.

“It is true that the Goa government does not try to promote casino in its official communication,” said Desai, who was at the travel mart-related seminar dealing with the issue of encouraging a tourism-oriented synergy between west coast states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala.

“Casinos have to co-exist. They are to follow certain guidelines on the basis of which their operations are allowed,” Desai cautiously said.

Elaborately decorated stalls operated by major casino operators in the state — like ‘Casino Royale’, ‘Casino Carnival’, ‘Chances Casino’, among others — have grabbed the centre stage at the ITM Goa, a four-day B2B event, which opened Thursday in Panaji.

The casino industry has found active and vocal support from key members of the ruling Congress-led coalition government, with Chief Minister Digambar Kamat even saying that money generated from the casino industry was being pumped into the social sector.

Top bureaucrats have been, however, more circumspect while speaking about the merits of the casino industry, its effect on the Goa’s tourism image.

Bureaucrats and tourism trade representatives from other states in the west coast region were also cautious when commenting on whether they would like emulate Goa’s casino tourism in their own states.

Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) managing director Kiran Kurandkar said that the Maharashtra government had no policy on casino oriented tourism.

Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation managing director Vinay Luthra said that as a tourism official he was open to the idea of casino tourism. “But it is a much larger question. There are other state agencies involved,” Luthra said.

There are seven offshore casinos in Goa, besides over a dozen onshore casinos located in various five-star hotels in the state.

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