three-member team comprising a PIDB official and two members from an empanelled private agency Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Limited (IL&FS) was sent on a four-day visit to Goa last week to study and explore the possibility of installing slot machines and casinos in Punjab, set to become third state in the country after Sikkim and Goa to have casinos.
The casinos will be built both inside hotels or stand alone on a PPP model near the river. Three multi-national companies including -- Populace , S Powers and JAA Consultants -- have already made bids for offering consultancy services for the horse racing tracks.
US-based game park company Six Flags is likely to construct the amusement part.
According to the state visit report, a copy of which is with TOI, the team -- which returned on Thursday -- held meetings with Goa chief secretary P K Shrivastav and special secretary Mohan Lal and had a first hand experience of slot machines in casinos in Panjim.
The casinos planned in Mattewara will have around 30-50 slot machines, video pokers and card games like baccarat, blackjack, pontoon and sicbo and will be open 24 hours.
"These casinos which we are planning are a part of our recreational amusement zone project near Ludhiana. The purpose is to increase the tourist footfall in the state. Our team has just returned from Goa after studying casinos. We're going to seek more advice and help on legal, technical and operational details from Sikkim and Goa governments," PIDB managing director Anurag Aggarwal told TOI.
The Punjab government is likely to discuss the Public Gambling Act, 1867 in its next Assembly session.
However, Punjab finance minister Parminder Dhindsa debunked the analogy between lotteries and casinos, saying the latter is only for recreational purpose.
""The process is in the initial stages. Casinos will certainly be a big revenue generator. The purpose is not create forced taxation here. We only want to encourage local tourism because when you see the locals from here going to Nepal or Hong Kong, they spend huge money to enjoy these games. Times have changed.But we agree, there might be some criticism as well,"" said Dhindsa.
Out of 1,400 acres of proposed landscaped area surrounded by thick forests and water bodies, Mattewara village is already set to have a horse racing turf on a 140-acre land, golf course on a 200-acre land and an amusement park.