The Goa state government surprised opposition parties by making a decision to allow offshore casinos to continue to operate on the Mandovi river. The issue has been fiercely contested by both political and religious parties who wanted the state government to not renew the offshore casino licenses. However the state government went against the opposition and decided to renew casino license for another 12 months effective from 31 March 2016 which will allow these offshore casinos to continue to operate on the River Mandovi.
The state had informed opposition parties that while it had tried to re-locate these offshore casinos from the River Mandovi, the project had to be put on hold due to a number of technical and administrative reasons. The opposition MLA’s are up in arms against the government’s decision and have accused the government of being stooges to the casino industry and accuses the ruling party of breaking its campaign promise to get the casino vessels out of Mandovi River.
In a statement, Opposition MLA, Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco said “The former Chief Minister, who is now the Defense Minister, Manohar Parrikar had assured in the House in 2012 soon after he came to power. He had held a candlelight procession demanding action against the casinos.” The MLA went on to say that since the BJP government was in power it was time that the state government made good on its promises.
The BJP government known for being pro-business is also considering allowing live casinos on land though that is expected to meet stiff resistance from people concerned about the negative effect that might have on the local community. Gambling is hugely controversial in India and Goa is only one of the three states in India to allow casino operations in any form. This makes the casino industry a huge attraction and revenue generator for Goa.
The issue of casinos operating in Goa continues to be highly divisive topic. On one hand there are conservative elements in the state that oppose legalization of gambling while modernists continue to point to the creation of jobs and the revenue generated by the gambling industry.
Goa makes a significant amount of its revenue from tourism and the casino industry is a huge draw for tourists. While the opposition from the renewal of the offshore casino licenses is expected to simmer out in the coming weeks, the state government will have to make a clear decision as to whether it is going to actively promote offshore and live casinos or if it is looking to scale back the casino industry in the next 12 months.