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Karnataka tourism minister proposes Las Vegas-style gambling zone

Karnataka Tourism Minister C. T. Ravi is proposing the legalization of casino gambling in his state as a measure to better compete for tourism with neighboring Goa.

“We need to learn from cities like Las Vegas to attract and entertain tourists. Even today, international tourists who visit Karnataka fly away to Sri Lanka or Goa just because they allow gambling… Our idea is to promote the Las Vegas model of gambling by protecting the interest of the common man and allowing restricted entry,” the minister said.

Ravi made clear that his idea was not to legalize casino gambling state-wide, but rather to contain it within a single, special zone as a magnet for tourists.

“It will be allowed only at a particular place where the government approves. The department will soon place the proposal before the government. Once it is cleared, the destination to set up the station will be finalized,” he added.

The state government would not be an investor, but would turn over the zone to private business and act as policymaker and regulator.

Ravi was quickly hit by criticism for his proposal, however, with Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi responding, "There is no need to convert Karnataka into a gambling den."

Battered by the onslaught, Ravi quickly began to back away from his own proposal.

“I am not supporting the idea directly. I bat for innovative ideas to promote tourism in the state. Only my reference to gambling stations has been highlighted in the media… Gambling station is against the Indian culture. However, there is a need to prevent money from India being spent on gambling stations abroad,” he contended.

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