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The government of Puducherry is working hard to legalize casinos in the Union Territory to boost the tourism industry and increase state revenue. However, Lieutenant Governor (LG) Kiran Bedi has raised objections to the proposal.
The Congress government had proposed to open casinos and breweries in Puducherry. A news report published by The Times of India has stated that Chief Minister V Narayanasamy, on December 27, said, “Puducherry is a tourist destination. We will do all that’s required to attract tourists. There are casinos in Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, and in India, Nagaland, Goa, and Sikkim have casinos. We will bring in regulations if you want.”
Retired IPS officer and present LG Governor Bedi opposed the proposal stating that the government should keep the ‘wolf of gambling’ away from a spiritual and pristine Puducherry. Bedi, who was also BJP’s Chief Minister (CM) candidate for the 2015 Delhi Assembly elections, further added that introducing casinos in the Union territory will affect the quality of domestic and international tourists besides causing social problems.
Narayanasamy countered Bedi saying that the latter does not have the authority to issue a verdict on the matter and claimed that Bedi is a woman without a conscience as she is allegedly adopting a revengeful attitude against the elected government.
Addressing a press conference, he said the Territorial government, under his leadership, had made rapid strides in several key sectors. He also referred to the Department of Personnel and Administrative Affairs of the Central government which had come out with an official report stating that among the Union Territories, Puducherry has “notched the top rank in governance, public health, human resources development sector and in the maintenance of law and order and security.”
According to the Chief Minister, “the legislative assembly will take a final decision on whether casinos and breweries will be allowed in the state or not.”
But Bedi wasn’t the only political figure to object the proposal, as even the opposition AIADMK on December 28 opposed the move of the territorial government to introduce a casino under the garb of promoting tourism in Puducherry. AIADMK legislator Vayyapuri Manikandan told reporters, “It is really mind-boggling that the Chief Minister V Narayanasamy has pointed out in no uncertain terms at a press meet on Friday that facilities like a casino would help government mop up revenue as Puducherry is a tourist destination.”
“Can Puducherry afford to strike at the cultural basis of the people by casinos and also letting liquor shops come up in large numbers and also yielding space to lottery business?” he questioned.
The idea of setting up a casino industry in Puducherry was first floated in July 2016 when Narayanasamy had announced plans of launching an offshore casino and a shipping channel to Chennai. The then Tourism and Health Minister Malladi Krishna Rao had stated that a high-level delegation would visit Goa to study the system of offshore casinos there. Back then, the BJP-led opposition party had condemned the move saying it would encourage unhealthy practices of gambling and alcoholism in the local youth.
Three years later, the Congress-led administration has come very close to realizing its plans. However, this time Bedi and the AIADMK seem to be in the way.
Apart from casinos, the government is also looking to restart the sale of state lotteries within and outside the Union Territory to augment revenues.
Whether the Congress-led government will be successful in its attempt to legalize casinos remains to be seen.