Santiago Martin donated Rs.159 crore to Andhra ruling YSRCP, as govt contemplated permitting lotteries & casinos to increase revenues

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The lottery king Santiago Martin appears to have donated to political parties across the ideologies to safeguard his business interests. Martin is the largest donor of electoral bonds with Rs. 1300+ crores and the donee parties include DMK (a ruling party in his home state), TMC (a ruling party in the largest lottery market state), the ruling and opposition parties in Sikkim a small northeast state where lottery is permitted and national parties BJP and Congress. But the odd one in the donee list appears to be YSRCP, the ruling party in Andhra Pradesh where lottery is prohibited.

Now news portal The News Minute (TNM) has reported that the Jagan Mohan Reddy government toyed the idea of permitting lotteries and casinos in the state. The government has reportedly formed a two-member committee headed by Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy, a chief advisor to the Andhra government to look at the feasibility of allowing state-run lottery and casinos.

The committee studied how the lottery system works in the 13 states where it is legal in India. “We closely studied the Kerala model and came to the conclusion that if Andhra starts a similar government-run lottery system, there can be an additional income of Rs 7,000-Rs 8,000 crore,” a person familiar with the matter was quoted by TNM.

Simultaneously, the committee looked into the option of permitting casinos off the coast of Visakhapatnam. After researching how Goa allows casinos to operate on the Mandovi River, the state considered the possibility of granting licences to casinos to operate off the Vizag coast, up to 10 nautical miles into the Indian territorial waters. This it was estimated could generate an additional Rs 11,000 crore per annum, the committee calculated.

The state government had reached out to the Union government to seek their opinion on the matter according to TNM. The committee began its deliberations in 2020 and submitted its report by mid-2021, a person who worked with the Andhra government confirmed.

But the idea was shelved as it was expected to dent the image of the ruling party and CM and party supremo Jagan could face a massive backlash, especially from women voters.

Andhra is a revenue deficit state with large welfare schemes seen as a mark of the ruling YSRCP. The state which goes into simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections has been exploring various options for shoring up revenues to increase the coffers.