Goa is easily one of the most tourist friendly states in India with its string of beautiful beaches, laidback culture and offshore & land based casinos. The gaming industry in Goa is responsible creating thousands of jobs for the local population, boosting both domestic and international tourism and also providing the government with a significant amount of revenue in the form of gaming taxes.
Offshore Casinos Under Pressure
However the ruling BJP government has faced a lot of flak for allowing the five floating casinos to operate on the River Mandovi. There have been numerous attempts over the last 18 months to re-locate the casinos away from the River Mandovi but none of them have been successful to date due to a number of reasons. The BJP government has been accused by the opposition National Congress Party of siding with the lucrative casino industry in order to further its interests.
Both religious and political parties in Goa want these five floating casinos to be re-located. The BJP government had promised to re-locate all floating casinos but that plan was scrapped as the casino operators were unable to find a suitable location to re-locate. The initial location chosen was rejected as the offshore casinos found the waters to be too choppy to stay afloat and carry on operations. As a result, the BJP government decided to extend their stay on the River Mandovi which did not go down well with the opposition.
Apart from this, the government had also approved the license for a sixth floating casino called the MV Lucky 7 and it appeared that Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar was encouraging the onshore casino industry to flourish. The MV Lucky 7 ran into problems last week while being towed to its permanent location on the River Mandovi. The floating casino hit a sandbank and got stuck. This did not go down well with Parrikar who made a u-turn and stated that the MV Lucky 7 will no longer be allowed to enter the River Mandovi and will have to find a new home, provided the local people have no objections to its proposed new location.
BJP Government To Eliminate Onshore Casinos
Chief Minister Parrikar lashed out at the National Congress Party stating that they had issued offshore casino licenses under their rule and should not be directing any criticism at the BJP. However Parrikar confirmed that his government is in the process of putting together a new gaming policy that will bring clarity to the language being used and will prevent casinos from being referred to as vessels.
The new gaming policy is expected to completely eliminate floating casinos and these onshore casino operators will get the opportunity to relocate their floating casinos to a special entertainment zone within the next 36 months.
BJP To Ban Locals From Casinos
The BJP government will also make amendments to the 2012 Prevention of Gambling Act and put in place a ban so that locals will not be allowed to enter any of the land based casinos. The government has hired the services of consulting firm KPMG to finalize on a suitable location for the special entertainment zone. Chief Minister Parrikar said that while the opposition continued to direct criticism at the BJP, the government could not immediately impose a ban on floating casinos as they had to keep in mind that these casino operators had invested large sums of money to do business in Goa.
Should Parrikar stand by his statement and not allow the MV Lucky 7 to enter the River Mandovi, there is a strong possibility that its owner Golden Globe Hotels Pvt Ltd, will file a lawsuit against the state government and seek to be compensated for its losses.
There are currently nine land based casinos in Goa and the majority of them are located within the premises of luxury hotels. These land based casinos attract both foreigners and out of state tourists and could face stiff competition if the government provides these five offshore casinos with land based casino licenses.
Only time will tell if Parrikar is serious about his plans to re-locate these offshore casinos to the special entertainment zone or if this is another publicity stunt to keep the opposition quiet for a longer period of time.