On Thursday, Goa Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar formally announced that the operators of the state’s four offshore casinos on the Mandovi river had been given until March 31, 2017 to find an alternate waterway to call home. The reprieve came on the same day the casinos’ licenses were set to expire.
Parsekar insisted that the relocation could happen before that 2017 deadline, assuming a suitable replacement location can be identified. Parsekar said the BJP had shortlisted four potential locations but they proved “either not feasible for the casino operators or there was opposition from the locals.” The government is therefore “thinking seriously” about amending the licenses to allow land-based operations, as there is ‘no opposition to land casinos’ in Goa.
Thursday’s reprieve marked the third time the BJP government has failed to observed a deadline for shifting the floating casinos. Parsekar said his administration had opted not to adhere to this latest deadline after receiving petitions from casino staff who feared losing their jobs or being forced to commute prohibitively long distances.
Making matters worse, the government announced it was renewing the license of a fifth floating casino, Delta Pleasure Cruise Co Ltd’s Royale Flotel. The casino had been issued a license in 2014 but had never set sail due to the relocation issue. Like the other four floaters, Royale Flotel’s new casino license will only be valid until March 31, 2017.
Thursday’s news produced howls of outrage from Parsekar’s political opponents, who reminded the public that the BJP party had made the relocation of Goa’s casinos a key plank of its platform in the 2012 election campaign.
Congress party general secretary Sunil Kawthankar said Parsekar’s administration had “crossed yet another milestone of shameless U-turn” while claiming that the BJP government is “run by the casino lobby.” In response, Parsekar blamed the previous Congress government’s “blunders” for saddling his administration with the casino question in the first place.