Come election time or when the political class in Goa runs out of topics to score brownie points with the people of Goa, they turn to what is touted as Goa’s greatest evil – Casinos.
I have never played in a casino and I will never play in casino with money as a matter of my principle, though I have visited two of the off-shore casinos in Goa at three occasions with friends and found them to be entertaining for a limited period like a normal evening-out.
I have no doubt in my mind that every person playing in the casino is off an eligible age to decide what is right or wrong as a matter of principle or economics.
I have heard many stories of the amount of money spent by players at the casinos and the kind of revenues the casino operators make on a daily basis.
And I have also not only heard but met a few people whose lives have taken a drastic turn southward from the opulence that they had prior to getting entangled in the vice of the casino demon. These are hard facts and we cannot deny it.
Every economic activity related to tourism comes with its related pros and cons. Activists object to luxury resorts in Goa because of environment related concerns yet it is these same luxury projects that fuel economic activity, create jobs and sustain an eco-system of financial growth.
Casinos too have brought their own advantages and disadvantages. And we should give the devil its due.
So while political parties will cry hoarse about the removal of casinos. I thought it would be entertaining to know their connections to casinos.
Congress has been the harbinger of the casino fortunes and misfortunes to Goa. While the Congress government was in power the casino business flourished. Then the BJP cried hoarse about the ills of casinos and even vowed to throw the casinos out of the Mandovi River. These declarations were made by none other than the current Defence Minister of our country Manohar Parrikar. Have either Parrikar, when he was Chief Minister of Goa or the current CM Laxmikant Parsekar taken any steps to move the casinos out of the Mandovi River or stop casino operations. The answer is a big no.
Their only act has been to ensure monopoly to two major companies in the casino business. And the relationship with the promoters of Deltin – of the major player – is only getting stronger thereby slowly but surely strengthening their monopoly in the Goa market.
Today in the run-up to the election, Congress leaders have started to imitate the BJP of past, in opposing casinos that they themselves permitted in the first place. Joining them and singing the same anti-casino song to a different beat is the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of Goa.
This is truly entertaining because no amount of activism will move the casinos out of Mandovi River and the political parties know it.
Interestingly, it is known fact that a particular Casino operator pays politicians to deliberately attack casinos. The acts are strategically focused on its rival casino operating company. So much so that they even caught a leading local media with their pants down trying to bribe money who had a tacit understanding with their rival casino company.
The casino business in Goa has gotten too vicious that many are not aware that there is a serious dog eats dog game going on. Of the two main players, the one climbing up the casinos business arena firmly, politically and monopolistically is none other than Jaydev Mody with his baby Deltin.
While most political daggers train their sight towards Jaydev Mody and Deltin. The Deltin team just does not bother and it keeps growing from strength to strength. Most politicos are like David who come to the fight with Goliath but have forgotten the slingshot even though they have the stones.
Casinos’ being moved out of Goa is a far cry both from the economic point of view of the state and the economic point of view of the politicians that benefit from casino operations. The grapevine doing the rounds in business and political circle is that with the coming of the Mopa Airport and Aerocity. There could be a strip like Las Vegas dedicated to casinos and even the rivers in the area could be the new off-shore casino zone.
In the Prime Minister’s fight against corruption and black money, unintentionally, the casino business in Goa has got severely hit. Demonetisation appears to have tamed the casino demon for a while. But has it completely slain the devil. I doubt it.
Casinos to many of its players and benefactors is that it is an angel of light or a ray of hope. So election time will pass and loud noises will be whispers over of drink.