Beautiful Goa. It's almost like going to a different country...not only is the architecture and religion of this region heavily influenced by the Portuguese occupation until 1961 but the economy is very strong due to the large tourist industry in this part of India. I read somewhere that the average Goans personal GDP is 2.5x that of the average Indian. As a result poverty is less prevalent in Goa than other parts of India and there seems to be more middle-class as a percentage of the overall population in the state.
Panaji itself is the capital of the state of Goa and, although it does have a couple of tourist attractions - like the only live gambling casino in the country - most tourists bypass Panaji to go straight to the beaches which are only a few kilometers away.
Unbeknown to me, when I arrived in Goa, that state was experiencing dry days - a three day ban on alcohol - due to state-wide elections that where underway. The government didn't want any alcohol related problems at the polls, and - according to a newspaper I read, in the past there had been allegations of politicians bribing people with alcohol before they voted. I've heard of bribing people with cash but not alcohol, at least not on such a large scale that the government would institute a total ban for three days.
I went to a monkey god temple but saw no monkeys. I was sad but got over it later that night when I went to Casino Goa. It is supposed to be the only legal live gambling casino in India. I had read about it before I came to India and I had, in my mind, imagined a very large casino. Not so. I got there a little after 10pm and paid the 1300rs cover (ouch!) but that was going to include unlimited drinks and food as well as the 200rs government imposed gambling tax. Normally this could be a good value but since this was dry days - unlimited beverages was pretty much restricted to pop and water. Dinner was alright - basic buffet table..but it featured an item I hadn't seen in awhile...beef. Delicious beef, roasted even. Turns out you can eat the sacred cow in Goa thanks to all the foreign tourists. mmmm......tasty cow.
The casino was on a boat, sitting in the middle of the river off the Panaji waterfront. To get there you had to take a little ferry. It felt, on a much smaller scale, like a flight to Vegas. The energy and excitement going to the casino on the ferry was very similar to the energy felt on a flight to Vegas. Everyone was excited about the prospects. And on the ride back later that night, it felt like a flight out of Vegas - awkward silence - as people realized they just lost a lot more money than they had had planned on.
Casino Goa is pretty small, compared to North American casinos. Only about eight slot machines as most of the floor space was used for live gambling. 4 Roulette, 2 Blackjack, 2 three-card poker & 1 five-card poker table. Plus, in the back, was three or four tables for the high rollers. Things where looking pretty grim for me a couple hours in until I got a spot on one of the three-card poker tables and got some good hands. I was almost even and getting ready to leave when I got trip jacks. Very Nice! 30:1 payout on the bonus paid 6000 & 5:1 on the ante got me another 1000. At the end of the night I was able to walk away up almost 7k. Sadly, that was 7000rs, not $$. I was rolling in 500 rupee bills. Crisp. Fresh. Just the way I like my rupees.
Of course, when I say end of the night I mean 4am, when I left. Needless to say, I slept in a bit the next day before heading to the beaches.