The political feud in Goa over the issue of offshore casinos has heated up yet again after the congress party accused the ruling BJP government of aiding the transformation of Goa into a sin city which was mainly due to the casino industry. The two parties have been at loggerheads ever since the government decided to give a one year extension to offshore casinos operating from the Mandovi river.
Goa is a very small state with tourism as its main industry. The state is also one of the three states in the country that allows casino to operate. The state government has been under pressure to relocate Goa’s offshore casinos from the Mandovi river and had earlier committed to re-locating all off-shore casinos. However the government did a u-turn on March 31 by deciding to extend the offshore licenses for an additional 12 months and allow Goa’s offshore casinos to continue to operate on the River Mandovi.
The state government stated that while the offshore casinos tried to find a suitable new location, the offshore casinos encountered both technical and administrative issues which made it difficult for them to successfully relocate. The government extended the offshore casino licenses in an effort to give them more time to find a new re-location site. To add fuel to the fire, the state government also stated that it was considering the possibility of providing offshore casinos with licenses that would allow them to operate onshore.
These remarks have infuriated the congress party who has accused the chief minister of yielding to pressure imposed by the casino industry. Luizinho Faleiro, the president of Goa Congress party accused the ruling party of being cronies of the casino industry and turning Goa into a ‘sin city’. The congress party alleges that the casino industry in the state acts as a breeding ground for drugs, prostitution and other criminal activities.
The congress party and other religious parties prefer for the state government to revoke all casino licenses and close the industry down. However this is a difficult decision for the state government as the casino industry generates a significant amount of revenue for the Goa government and also creates thousands of jobs for the local population.
Goa is the only state in India that currently allows both offshore and onshore casinos and it is highly unlikely that the pressure from the congress party will be sufficient to shutdown the entire industry.