Panaji turning into a city of gamblers

Panaji is turning into a city of gamblers. This city has offshore casinos housed in the multi-storeyed boats on Mandovi river. The city is home to a number of matka dens chiefly located at Dona Paula, Miramar, Campal and market areas. Besides, every bar in the city has accommodated matka bookies either in their premises or outside their premises. Matka operations also thrive in all suburban areas of the city like Merces, St Cruz and Chimbel.

People believe that 80 per cent of the Panaji dwellers are directly or indirectly linked to gambling. Some people have rented out their business premises and flats to conduct gambling or run matka operations as they get good revenue.

Matka operations have ensnared everybody as those involved get hefty commissions from agents. The commission ranges from `5 to `25 depending upon the cash one collects either from the matka players or from the multiple sub-agents spread all over the city.

And these matka operations have made inroads into the remote villages too.

If you visit the market, you will find people — from top echelons of the society to the poorest of poor labourers to police officers — playing matka. From vegetable vendors to fisher folks all are tempted to try their luck in matka as it fetches huge margin of profits — like for Re 1 bet they get ` 90 and for ` 100 they get ` 9000.

In Goa, the matka called ‘Bombay Main’ is favoured. And then come Kalyan, Neelam, Day Night, Day Star and Night Star to entice the people.

This form of gambling runs into crores of rupees in the state. It should be noted here that there have been no fights for payment and nor a police complaint against any matka bookies. It works on good faith among matka bookies, agents and players.

In the past Budo, Bashik and Liance ran big matka operations in the city, but the police never raided their dens, so they were never arrested for running matka operations.

In Goa even ministers are involved in matka business and as such it is very difficult to root out such illegalities. Sometime back authorities wanted to legalise it so that at least some revenue could be earned from matka operations. But there was change of mind and the government introduced lotteries, which failed to evoke favourable response from the matka players.

A few years back, the Mumbai police had caught one murder accused in Sher-e-Punjab hotel in the city and recovered huge amount of money from his possession. The murder accused had killed a matka kingpin in Mumbai and taken refuge in the state.

In the suburban areas like Santa Inez, Taleigaon, Caranzalem, Santa Cruz, Merces and Chimbel groups of matka agents visit houses in the thickly populated colonies and collect matka bet money earning revenue upto thousand of rupees everyday.

The business received short in the arm after the activities like fishing, mining and construction faced slump forcing the people to turn to matka.

After the sudden and surprised raids conducted by the police inspector, Mr Nolasco Raposo at Chimbel arresting 13 persons, the matka bookies, who were operating on every streets of the city, have now gone underground.

Even though they are lying low now they may resurface at any time since they make a living on matka gambling. [NT]