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Move to shift racecourse shelved?

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A REPRIEVE: A view of the racecourse in Bangalore. Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash
A REPRIEVE: A view of the racecourse in Bangalore. Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

S. Rajendran

Chief Minister says it is not on the agenda and there are other issues to be tackled

BANGALORE: The State Government has reportedly shelved its proposed move to stop the public from punting at the Bangalore Turf Club and at the Mysore Race Club.

The Government has now taken the stand that there is no such proposal irrespective of the fact that it was voiced by Minister for Planning and Lotteries Ramachandra Gowda who was instrumental in the action against the internet and paper lotteries operating in the State. "There are many other pressing things on hand. Let us look into this matter later" is what Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy has said.

This is a repeat of what happened under the Ramakrishna Hegde and S.M. Krishna governments. Both the governments first proposed to shift the racecourse in Bangalore to the outskirts and later backed off. At that point of time, the racecourse was to be shifted to the large vacant land at Jakkur.

Personal opinion

The Government has said that the proposal was the personal opinion of the Minister. It said only a decision of the State Cabinet would be final. As such a discussion on horse racing was not on the agenda.

Mr. Ramachandra Gowda said he was committed to a ban on gambling in all forms and his focus on horse racing had been relegated to the background following the setback in the ban on lotteries. The High Court had issued a stay on the ban and consequently lotteries had surfaced again.

"We have to put an end to all forms of gambling, particularly those that affect the poor and middle classes. We are only against betting within the premises of the Bangalore Turf Club. "Let the rich gamble, but they should not encourage the poor to gamble and reap the benefits," he told The Hindu .

BTC Chairman Marilingaiah, who recently called on the Chief Minister and expressed his reservations over the proposed move, told The Hindu that he was confident that the Government would hold discussions with the BTC before opting for any change. "On behalf of the BTC, I have told the Chief Minister that we are ready for any change, if need be. The BTC is not into any kind of illegal activities or irregularities. A close surveillance is maintained into all facets of horse racing."

Not discussed

It is evident that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Janata Da (Secular), the two coalition partners, have not discussed the issue of banning horse racing in the State since the matter had not figured either at the coordination meeting of the two parties or at discussions between the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa.

Sources in the Government told The Hindu that based on the suggestion of Mr. Ramachandra Gowda at a high-level meeting held here, the Government had directed a high-level committee of legal experts to scrutinise various judgements of the Supreme Court and the High Courts relating to horse racing and betting. The Government was looking into a judgment of the Supreme Court which had classified horse racing as a skill sport while setting aside the ban on horse racing in Tamil Nadu.

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