Casinos are not coming to the Indian state of Karnataka, no matter what some state officials may have said publicly.
Last week, Karnataka Tourism Minister C.T. Ravi raised eyebrows when he proposed establishing 15 ‘casino centers’ across the state, including six in the capital Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore), three each in Mangaluru and Belagavi, and one each in three other cities.
Ravi (pictured) said Karnataka needed “to learn from cities like Las Vegas to attract and entertain tourists.” Ravi maintained that the casinos would boost international tourism by diverting gamblers who currently go to casinos in the state of Goa, which sits on Karnataka’s northwestern border, or to Sri Lanka, Singapore or farther afield.
Ravi said the casinos would operate under “a restricted entry and will be set up in such a manner that it only attracts tourist crowd.” The state would also benefit from increased employment by encouraging private investors to take a chance on opening casinos.
But by Saturday, facing a backlash from the public, the media, opposition parties and members of his own government, Ravi was singing a different tune. Ravi claimed that he had “only expressed my opinion on how other countries promoted tourism … casino tourism is one such thing. I have no intention of developing it here.” Ravi added that “there has been no discussion on this as yet” with the government.
On Monday, Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs J.C. Madhuswamy stressed that Ravi’s original statement “was not the government’s statement.” Madhuswamy then proceeded to throw shade, saying “all that [Ravi] said without applying his mind cannot be state’s policy.”
Goa, Sikkim and the union territory of Daman and Diu are the only regions of India that have authorized casino gambling, and Daman and Diu has yet to actually open any functioning casinos. Karnataka has previously flirted with the idea of joining this exclusive casino club but the reaction to Ravi’s off-the-cuff remarks shows the state has a ways to go before that becomes a reality.