The Indian state of Goa has renewed a controversial floating casino license after a court ordered it to stop stalling and make a decision already.
On Wednesday, the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court gave the state government 24 hours in which to consider whether or not to renew Golden Globe Hotels Pvt Ltd’s (GGHPL) casino license. On Thursday, the BJP government of Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar duly complied, approving the launch of Goa’s sixth ‘offshore’ casino.
The license was issued just two days before the results of February’s state election are to be published. The BJP government had claimed its hands were tied on the casino issue until the votes were counted and it knew which party would form the next government. The rival Congress and Aam Aadmi parties have pledged to ban all the state’s casinos if they win the election.
The license renewal is valid for five years. However, given the tight timeline under which it was required to act, Parsekar’s government left open the possibility of challenging the High Court’s ruling at the Supreme Court at some future date, assuming the BJP is still in power after this week.
GGHPL, which is linked with former Haryana minister Gopal Kanda (pictured), had been sitting on its casino license since it ceased operations in 2011. Last year, GGHPL revived its casino plans by paying Rs. 460m (US $6.9m) in outstanding dues and fees. But the government stalled its decision on whether to renew the license, prompting GGHPL to take the government to court.
GGHPL’s tenure as Goa casino operator could be short-lived. Last October, rumors circulated that GGHPL intended to sell its casino business to the Essel Group, the folks behind the Playwin lottery and gaming brand.
Essel has been trying to launch a Casino Maharaja-branded floating casino on the Mandovi since 2009 but was never able to convince the government to issue a new license. Essel reportedly has a fully kitted out vessel ready and waiting to commence operations if it can secure the necessary license.
All six of Goa’s floating casinos are facing a deadline for finding a new home other than the Mandovi river. On March 31, 2016, CM Parsekar gave the casinos one year in which to find a new place to dock and, while the names of various other locations have been bandied about, there’s been no official word of a permanent solution, in part due to the uncertainty over the election results.