After barges posing danger in Mandovi River, the increasing number of casinos is the next major concern for the port administration with a big race on to fill three more slots for operations of off-shore gambling vessels.
As many as four off-shore casinos would now be cruising the river Mandovi with the government clearing two more – Kings and Pride of Goa. This is in addition to the existing two – Caravela and Leela’s. It is not known when Kings and Pride of Goa would begin their operations.
Interestingly, the approval for the two casinos came from the government days after a major protest demonstration was held at Gandhi Jayanti in Panjim in which around 25 different organizations gathered under the banner of Aam Aurat Admi Against Gambling (AAAG).
Herald has learnt that a major deliberation is on the cards with the port administration looking into the aspect of gambling vessels vis-a-vis off-shore operations and the need of the hour to decongest river Mandovi. While the earlier off-shore vessels approved by the government are deemed to be small, the fear now being expressed is over larger vessels operating in the river.
Sources said that even the existing off-shore casinos are way above the Air Draft requirement of 9 meters at high tide. It is further feared that in the event of a mid-river collision, drifting in bad weather or any other navigational mishaps could impact the bridge which already has cracks from barge collisions.
While the port administration is concerned, its role is only limited to granting plying permissions based on navigational worthiness of the vessel, sources said. Captain of Ports A P Mascarenhas said, “Plying permissions in case of Leela, Kings and Pride of Goa were accorded months ago.”
Leela’s casino received the license long ago and it was to start operations off Betul. But after protests from locals there, the vessel shifted to Mandovi for anchorage. Two years ago, the Rane government, after inserting a small notice in a local vernacular newspaper inviting expression of interest in casinos, had reviewed its decision – that there would be not more than five new ones.
Former finance minister Dayanand Narverkar who wrote a letter to the chief minister yesterday on the issue, has attached his note put up in December 2007 pointing out that Rane government had given a no objection certificate (NOC) to seven casinos. He may not have opposed off-shore casinos in Goa but he has strongly demanded with the chief minister that no more than two casinos (Carvela and Leela’s) should be permitted.
Sources said that Home Minister Ravi Naik cleared the file giving approval to the two new casinos recently, nearly a year after keeping the applications in the “cold-storage”. The Bailancho Saad on Saturday has strongly protested against new approvals granted for off-shore casinos and said it has to be scrapped in toto.