Goa puts its money on casinos as tourists flood India

CALANGUTE, India, Dec 19, 2006 (AFP) – India’s Arabian Sea tourist resort of Goa, beloved of hippies and backpackers, plans to launch an armada of floating casinos to pull in high-roller tourists.

Goa’s state government proposed the casinos as India posted a 13 percent rise in tourist arrivals to 3.91 million in the fiscal year ended March 2006 and the government earned six billion dollars — the third largest source of foreign exchange.

“That means more quality tourists are coming to our country and we in Goa would like to cash in on this trend,” Ernest Dias, vice president of Goa’s Travel and Tourism Association, said in an interview.

“These new offshore casinos will bring premium tourists here,” he said, predicting that the former Portuguese colony’s Calangute beachfront would see an explosion in foreign visitors.

“Since the 1960s we have been identified as a drug-and-sex hippie centre, but that’s changing. Tourists from a wider economic band are coming, and these new casinos will help as Goa after 10:00 pm doesn’t have a nightlife,” he added.

Goa’s solitary privately-run floating casino, Carvella, plies the Mandovi River and is packed after sundown.

The west