Panaji: With the entry of Goans banned in casinos from February 1, the coastal state's Ports Minister Michael Lobo has now demanded that 'matka', an illegal daily lottery, should be legalised.
According to Lobo, the Goa government was losing revenue due to the illegal, but the popular matka gambling racket and added that legalising it would help shore up the state's Goods and Services Tax (GST) earnings.
"Today or tomorrow matka will be legal. There will be no ban. It will be legal. It will come come under the ambit of law," Lobo told reporters late Saturday.
Lobo's conviction vis-a-vis legalising matka, coincided with the ban on domiciled Goans from entering offshore and onshore casinos in the state, which came into effect on the same day.
Matka is an illegal form of gambling that has gained immense popularity in Mumbai and the Konkan region since the 1960s. It functions six days a week, virtually like a lottery, where lucky numbers are generated thrice every day.
Matka's popularity stems from the fact that one can wager a bet of even Re 1. The matka industry in Goa alone is pegged at several thousand crores of rupees and several legislators and Ministers in successive state governments in the past have demanded its legalisation.
A study conducted last year by a Goa-based NGO Sangath, which specialises in developmental disabilities and mental health problems, had revealed that matka is one of the most popular forms of gambling in Goa among adult males.
According to the study, out of the 724 respondents interviewed by Sangath, 1.1 per cent admitted to have gambled in a casino environment, while 39.5 per cent admitted to having played matka at least once to thrice a week, giving an indication of its popularity.
Lobo, says that the government could tap into this very popularity and earn tax revenue from it.
"No one pays GST on matka. There is a huge loss to the government. My request is to let it come under the purview of law and GST should be applied on it," the Minister said.
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The Rural Development Minister said that if a gambler wishes to wager a Rs 100 matka bet, he would have to pay Rs. 112 instead, out of which Rs 12 would be earned by the state in form of GST, if matka is legalised.
"Let the government earn Rs 12 rupees. In case someone wins the lottery, winnings can also be (tax) deducted," Lobo said.
The Minister also said, that matka commission agents, who currently conduct the illegal gambling racket in hiding, could continue to legally accept commission for money wagered.