Goa Government to Award More Off Shore Casinos

Panaji – Notwithstanding strong objection by main opposition political outfit, Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), Goa government is all set to permit four more off shore casinos with ships already anchored in the Panaji port.

Goa already has an off shore casino `Caravela‘ managed by M/s Advani Pleasures Company, while state government has expressed interest to grant five more licenses for these off shore gambling dens.

Then Pratapsingh Rane led state cabinet had opened up avenues to Goan waters for off shore casinos, which had met with the strong opposition from the BJP.

The main opposition, drawing a morality line, has said that they will not allow more casinos to mushroom and will also stop the existing licensed casino operating in Panaji port.

„90 per cent of the casino clients are from Mumbai, Delhi and other states. Of them, 70 per cent are involved in illegal trades like money laundering, drugs and other trades,“ leader of opposition Manohar Parrikar said justifying his party’s opposition.

„Casino is the best place to convert black money into legitimate one,“ he commented.

He said that the party is worried that casino culture will deface the tourism structure in the state making it pervert tourism. „We won’t allow this to happen,“ the former chief minister added.

Parrikar said that the other vices like prostitution will also accompany off shore casinos spoiling the social fabric of the state.

Goa, the place where tourists almost double the strength of its population visits annually, allows off shore casinos which are governed by anti gambling act. The state government has already moved for a legislation, which will regulate off shore casinos.

Annually, each casino pays Rs five crore to the state government besides, the state government earns on the entertainment tax levied on them.

The state government through a cabinet resolution on September 13, 2007 had resolved to allow six casinos in the water including the existing one.

Subsequently, Hotel Leela came up with its casino near its hotel property in south Goa. The casino ship met with an opposition by fishermen forcing the hotel to shift it into river Mandovi which has been anchored off Panaji’s old secretariate in the port.

Sources confirmed that other ships including Pride of Goa by M/s Coastal Resorts Private Limited, Kings Casino by Victor Group of hotels, another casino by High Street Cruises Private Limited and another by local business house M/s V M Salgaoncar are awaiting licenses to venture into the waters.

„The ship operators have approached us for the license. We have granted them the license to anchor in the port. The actual granting of casinos is not our prerogative,“ Lyndon Monteiro, officer on special duty for minister of ports, Fransisco Pacheco, stated.

The state home ministry officials confirmed that the government till date has allowed only two licenses while rest will be given on the first come first serve basis.

Leader of opposition Parrikar, however, stated that the government has awarded open letters to 12 operators who will get the licenses after they procure the ships.

Parrikar feared that entire Mandovi river channel will be flooded with the ships blocking the navigational channel used by large ships. „We will not allow the ships to dock in Panaji port and will not allow anyone to use Panaji streets for the purpose,“ he said.