Goa’s chief minister has postponed the deadline for the shifting of casinos from the River Mandovi “until suitable alternative sites are finalized”, local media reports.
Previously, the cabinet resolves that the offshore casinos would shift to an alternate location within the state by Mar. 31, 2016. Laxmikant Parsekar, Goa’s chief minister said the casinos will continue at its current location for one more year.
“The casinos have been given one year extension to remain in the Mandovi till March 31 next year or until a feasible alternate site is found, whichever is earlier,” he said, adding they had previously identified four new locations but were deemed unfeasible.
The licences granted to the offshore casinos were due to expire on March 31.
“We had identified four locations which were Zuari river, Mandovi river mouth, Aguada Bay and Chapora river. But these locations were either not feasible for the casino operators or there was opposition from the locals,” Parsekar said.
The main opposition Congress said the postponement was a clear case of “back-stabbing” the people of Goa.
“The BJP government today has crossed yet another milestone of shameless U-turn on its own promise with this decision, which bolsters our belief and claim that the BJP government is run by the casino lobby,” said Congress general secretary Sunil Kawthankar.
According to the Navhind Times, Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar said that the government is contemplating allowing the offshore casinos to shift their operations onshore as one of the options given none of the rivers had offered a feasible location.
Although offshore casino owners have welcomed the proposal, some said the move would require promises of exclusivity to their licenses if granted.
“We have invested huge amounts in the vessels and if we are told to shift, we will do it but what about the vessels? We will re-incur investment costs for onshore casinos and the government will have to ensure security to our investment,” said Director of Casino Pride Shrinivas Nayak.
An unidentified source, quoted by the Navhind Times said that moving casinos onshore would help in consolidating the industry. “The vessels from where the offshore casinos are functioning are not seaworthy and, therefore, the government cannot force these vessels to move out of River Mandovi. However, the government is not willing to give up on the huge sums of revenue the industry provides in addition to employment,” the source added.
According to Jay Sayta, a gaming lawyer in India, the move would require legislative amendments, and given 2017 is an election year, “it may only crystallise at the end of 2017 or in early 2018.”