It was only last September that Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar-led cabinet decided to extend the deadline of the offshore casino by seven months, in the midst of protests by the localities at Panjim and nearby area who demanded the vessels being completely dislodged from the Mandovi river.
Then, Parsekar had contended that either the Casinos will relocate themselves by March 31st or will move to location as suggested by the state government. However even as the self-imposed deadline comes to an end in less than a month, neither of the two seem to happen, allege activists.
“The government claims that Casino are needed to generate local employment and it adds as a tourist attraction, but the tall claims are nothing but farce. On the contrary their entry has increased the rate of crime, drunken rage and rise of escort services in the area. But the government seems to be indifferent to the local issues and bothered only about minting money,” Sabina Martin of Aam Auraat Aaadmi Against Gambling (AAAAG) said.
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In the heart of state capital across the Mandovi river, the operation of four offshore casino’s namely – Motor Vessel (MV) Pride of Goa or Casino Pride, MV Horseshoe (Deltin Royale Casino) and MV Boa Sorte (Casino Pride 2), MV Casino Royale (Deltin JAQK) have led to the wrath of the activist who demand that the operators be dislodged.
A person close to the casino operators says, the gambling vessels had recently scouted an area far off from the rivers coast. “But on trial, the water was found to be unsteady, it affected the business operations and therefore abandoned,” she said.
According to AAAAG members,the then BJP leadership under Manohar Parrikar’s made claim to political power in 2012 only because they assured locals that they will uproot the casino’s out of Goa, once in power. “But for the past four-years they have been only stalling the matter. Even this time we feel the stalemate will continue” Martin adds.
However source close to the state tourism claim that for the state which is highly affected by the mediocre tourist turnout in recent years and near-dead mining activity it may not be able do away with off-shore casino without affecting state coffers, that according to an estimate generates over Rs. 100 crore per annum in the form of tax. “Its substantial earning for state revenue, it may not be an easy decision to send them out. Its a major attraction for domestic tourist,especially during weekends” a partner at Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) says.
Meanwhile, Chief Secretary of the state RK Srivatsava said that the matter is for the government to decide. “From administration point of view the current deadline is March 31st which we will comply as per the law, however the state cabinet may also decide as it may deem fit,” he said.
Responding to state government’s move to set-up Goa Public Gaming Act,1976 (Amendment bill) that restricts Goan’s from gambling along with a Gaming commissioner, Sabina says that it is a reactionary move. “Firstly its discriminatory, secondly anyone can challenge such laws in higher courts and it can be declared unconstitutional and therefore has no logic in pursuing it whatsoever,” Martin’s said
Speaking to The Indian Express, Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar said that the government is yet to decide on the fate of the casino’s within a month. “As of now we have not been able to scout for a suitable location. We are yet to receive any kind of communication from the Casino operators, only after which the decision can be taken,” he said.