Hyderabad: The Andhra Pradesh government is exploring the possibility of allowing casinos and gaming zones in the Bay of Bengal and rivers in the state to attract more tourists. Sources said the state wants to tread cautiously on opening up the new front as it may involve national security.

The state has sought a legal opinion after it received six proposals to set up casinos on the Bhavani islands in the Krishna river. Sources said the Coast Guard and the Eastern Naval Command would have to examine several sensitive issues if AP wishes to move ahead.

At present, the gaming and gambling facilities operate in Goa, Sikkim and Daman after complying to a set of strict norms.

“Even in Goa, a cruise liner waits in international waters and tourists are taken there by luxury boats to access its casino, amusement, gambling, entertainment venues and eateries,” said a senior bureaucrat.

The official said the same laws won’t be applicable in the case of rivers. Also, the state is in no mood to rush through the proposals for Bhavani Island as it might invite the wrath of the Civil Society.

About three years ago, an NRI had approached the state, offering to replicate the Sentosa amusement park of Singapore on Bhavani Island, which is a collection of several tiny landmasses spread over 130 acres in the middle of Krishna river.

“In case the state wishes to encourage the casino atmosphere on Bhavani Island, as part of promoting tourism, it would have to amend the Andhra Pradesh Gaming Act-1974,” said High Court advocate Sreenivasa Rao, adding that the amendment Act would need provisions similar to those inserted in the Goa, Daman, and Diu Public Gambling Act-1976. “Apart from that, other approvals from the Centre and defence are also essential.”

Casinos are a part of the state tourism department’s efforts to tap into new areas to get more visitors to the state and boost its revenue. At a collector’s conference a few years back, the then director (tourism) Himanshu Shukla had said that the department was aiming at completing the allotment of 25,000 rooms by 2020 and 15,000 rooms by December 2019. According to Shukla, the department had identified Bhavani islands, Kakinada, Madhurawada, Srisailam and Gandikota to develop them as integrated tourism zones.

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