In 10.5 years of BJP rule, offshore casinos got 21 extensions to operate in Mandovi
SURAJ NANDREKAR/GoemkarponnPANAJI: In 2012, the BJP came to power due to sheer public desire for what people called the corrupt Digambar Kamat from 2007-2012.The main issues that BJP fought for under Manohar Parrikar in 2012 were Illegal Mining and Off Casinos.Ten years down the line (in the eleventh year), there is no accountability for the Rs 35,000 cr illegal mining, nor have the casinos moved out.On Wednesday, November 23, the Goa state government granted another six months extension to the offshore casinos to operate in River Mandovi.As per the latest decision, the offshore casinos will operate on the River Mandovi from October 1, 2022, to March 31, 2023, or until a new site is identified for relocating them.For information, this was the 21st extension granted to the offshore casinos to operate in River Mandovi, a reason that the extension is given until a new site is identified for relocating them. The first was granted under Manohar Parrikar in 2012.In these 10 years, the leader of that “corrupt” government – according to BJP, Digambar Kamat, along with the then Cabinet Ministers and MLAs – Vishwajit Rane, Ravi Naik, Babush Monseratte, Mauvin Godinho and then Congress president Subash Shirodkar, Congress ally – Sudin Dhavalikar then, are now part of Dr Pramod Sawant-led BJP government.Since most MLAs of the 2012 Congress government have changed their colours to saffron, there is no way casinos are going anywhere.
Not only Congress MLAs, after 2012, it was Porvorim independent MLA Rohan Khaunte, who is the Tourism Minister today, and vehemently opposed the casinos then, but now, he too seems to look the other way round.
Casinos going nowhere…Offshore casinos are the heartbeat of real-money gaming in Goa, making the coastal state the poker capital of India. Still, their continued operations off River Mandovi have invited local protests and political turmoil in the past.Over the past 10 years, the state government has granted 21 extensions to the offshore casinos, thus letting them operate on the Mondavi unimpeded. The extension was given primarily for want of an alternative site.The state government said that the Home Department and the Captain of Ports (CoP) had identified four possible alternatives, including the mouth of River Mandovi near Aguada jail, two on the River Zuari, and one off the River Chapora.By public notice, objections were invited to the alternate proposed sites. Complaints about the relocation of the offshore casinos to these proposed sites were received from various individuals and village panchayats.Since the identified areas were found to be technically not feasible, the issue of relocating the offshore casinos could not be finalized.The Home Department has requested details to be submitted of alternate sites identified for permanently relocating the offshore casinos.As the alternate feasible sites could not be made available, the Home Department proposed to the state government to grant a further six months extension to the offshore casinos, starting from October 1.Six casinos operate on floating vessels moored on River Mandovi, namely Deltin Royale, Deltin JAQK and Deltin Caravela, Casino Majestic Pride, Casino Pride II, and Casino Big Daddy.
The fact is casinos form a significant bulk of revenue for the government. Since most industry sectors have been closed for months, the government must recognize the casino sector that plays a crucial role in promoting Goa as a tourist hotspot apart from employing many Goans. Not to forget the license fee and taxes that go into the state coffers.