Proof of this came when on the weekend there was a raid at a hotel in Calangute where 42 persons from Gujarat, Maharashtra and Delhi were arrested for playing cards and gambling using chips. Two rooms on the fifth floor of the hotel were used for the gambling activity and police seized cash amounting to Rs 10 lakh, 5,739 chips each worth Rs 1,000, two card swipe machines and 57 mobile phones.
What is interesting is that all 42 persons arrested for the gambling activity are tourists. Goa has opened its borders so that the tourism industry that has been facing a downslide receives a boost, but this is definitely not the kind of tourist that Goa requires at the moment. The police will now write to the Tourism Department and the local panchayat to take action against the hotel owner for allowing the premises to be used for gambling activity. In the meantime, the news of the gambing raid has spread across the country showing Goa in a bad light, that could attract other unsavoury visitors to the State.
The gambling raid comes at a time when major crime in Goa has shown a sudden spurt. It follows a gang war at St Cruz, a brawl after a night party at Anjuna and then a few days later a drug party at Vagator, a robbery turned murder in Margao and an attack on a businessman and his staff at Anjuna. Four of these incidents have occurred along the Bardez beach belt and three of them involved tourists or people from outside the State. The night party at Anjuna during the time when there were nightime travel restrictions was meant to be a send off party for a Russian, the Vagator rave party had Bollywood film industry links, and now the gambling raid that invovled all tourists. Even as the gambling raid was being investigated, there was another raid involving fake currency and a drug cartel also in Calangute.
The fear of the COVID-19 pandemic is going to keep most families home. Those who will travel will either be for business purposes, or Goa may get the adventurous types who seek drugs and gambling as a form of enjoyment. As the tourism season is weeks away from starting, we need to ask whether Goa will be welcoming the kind of tourists it desires and needs, or will the State be getting an unsavoury kind of visitor? If it is the latter, how can it be stopped? If there can be standard operating procedures for tourists arriving in the State, then perhaps there should also be similar SOPs on what can be done and what can’t be done during their stay in the State. Goa certainly does not need the drug and gambling kind of tourist as both activities are illegal.
In recent days there have been at least five gambling raids – most involving matka operations – across the State. Not all involved are tourists, and there have been locals arrested too. Yet, what the Calangute raid clearly shows is that there are tourists coming to Goa to gamble. What the police has to investigate is whether the gambling session on the weekend was planned in advance and if so then are there more such sessions planned for the coming weeks. Goa does not need the taint of an illegal gambling destination. It’s already been painted as a rave party destination. All these illegalities must be stopped before they get out of hand.