Monday, October 15, 2007

Goa Going The Las Vegas Way?

Goa Going The Las Vegas Way?

By Fr. Desmond de Sousa CSsR, SAR NEWS

PANAJI, October 15, 2007 (SAR NEWS) -- Concerned citizens and non-governmental groups (NGOs) under the banner of Anti-Casino Movement (ACM) came together in Goa last week against the Goa government’s ill-designed policies of promoting gambling through casinos.

They demanded an immediate ban on all casinos, both on and off shore. They met to chalk out a plan of action against gambling being promoted by the government.

“If matka is being prohibited, so also should casinos, as both are forms of gambling and a social evil for Goan society,” protested Sabina Martins of the Bailancho Saad (Women’s Voice).

The Movement voiced serious apprehension against the sanctioning of four more licences for offshore casinos from among the 22 application already received. There are already 11-odd casinos operating in various five-star hotels. The increasing number of gambling outlets, the ACM alleges, would give rise to law and order problems and their impact would have a harmful effect on Goan society, especially on the lives of its women, youth and children.

“The State government of aam admi (common man) should also pay attention to the aam aaurat (common woman) who would be worst hit by the menace of gambling,” according to Sabina Martins.

She went on to demand, “Since the Regional Plan 2011 has been scrapped, so also should casinos be scrapped.” The ACM opined that if the government is considering the revenue benefits, casinos should not be tapped because it is ill-gotten money. It further ridiculed the amendments to the Goa Gambling Act and a deliberate omission of a definition of offshore casinos.

The Las Vegas way

State governments in the United States are pushing gambling to raise revenue from lotteries and casinos, reported the New York Times in May 2003. It calculates that since the easing of gambling laws in 1991, the amount of money wagered has skyrocketed from $27 billion to $68 billion.

Comments economist Don Phares of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, “Gambling provides almost no economic benefits to anyone but the owners and the States.”

Experts on gambling addiction warn that gambling is dangerous because it offers a very fast and highly stimulating rate of risk while playing.

Stephen Crosby of the Boston Globe in July 2003, searched for why States love gamblers? His research shows that in 1972, 45% of the revenues were paid out in prizes. In 2003, this figure slid down to 21%. “So gambling is now done in a way which takes an extraordinary amount of money from people who probably can’t afford it and returns a declining share of that to local aid.”

In the fiscal year 2002, he noted, Massachusetts citizens spent over $4 billion on lottery, or $658 for each man, woman or child in the State. The national per capita average is around $150.

In 1978, only the State of Nevada had casinos. Now, more than 25 States have some form of casino gambling. So on the 25th anniversary of New Jersey State’s first casino, it was estimated that the State casinos brought in $7 billion in capital investment, created more than 45,000 jobs and boosted State revenues.

Yet unemployment in the zone around the casinos averaged 11.4%, well above the State average of 5.4%. Worse, the number of purse-snatchings, assaults, rapes, robberies and murders skyrocketed after the casinos opened. FBI statistics indicate the crime rate per 1000 residents went from 134.3 in 1978 to a peak of 450.3 ten years later.

Why work for a salary, when there are easy pickings from casino patrons, appears to be the logic of the unemployed criminals? Canadian researchers reveal that the poorer class spends more in gambling than the others.

MGM Mirage, the world’s biggest casino company plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars, establishing itself as a dominant force, by building smaller versions of its Las Vegas casinos.
Goa’s economy and the Anti-Casino Movement

Channel News Asia reported that it is the high appetite for risk in gambling that drives the economy of Goa. It is the only State in India to have legalised casinos. The argument in favour of casinos is that the fortunes of Las Vegas have been built on gambling. Over the last five years Macau’s economy has turned around thanks to the large scale gambling casinos. Even straitlaced Singapore has decided to legalise casinos.

So Goa should cash in on the human propensity to take high risk and enable people to go safely to indulge in their passion for gambling at casinos, to boost the State’s revenues. It is better to keep the revenue in India, rather than gamblers with money spending it in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand. No only will the exchequer profit, but a lot of the crime associated with illicit gambling will disappear overnight when gambling becomes legitimate.

The Anti-Casino Movement can propagate the story of Indian folklore about prince Yudhishthir who lost his wealth, kingdom and wife Draupadi to gambling debts. Like all other addictions -- tobacco, liquor, drugs -- gambling can also easily become an addiction. Instead of giving their money for the welfare of the family, people gamble away their salaries, reducing their families to penury.

Will legalising casino gambling ensure that gamblers will stop short of squandering a substantial part of their earnings, month after month on gambling? There are many cases of people going broke as a result of gambling and ruining their families, often causing broken homes and suicides. Research shows that gambling related suicides are on the rise. Will the government of Goa be aiding and abetting these social evils by legalizing gambling casinos?

No comments: