A floating casino has run aground on the Mandovi river in the Indian state of Goa, bringing unwanted attention to an already controversial subject.
On Sunday night, the MV Lucky 7 casino cruise vessel was being towed from Mormugao harbor to its designated anchoring spot on the Mandovi river when the ship got stuck on a sandbar near Miramar beach. The MV Lucky 7 had only just launched on the weekend after the ship’s owner, Golden Globe Hotels Pvt Ltd, received permission to set sail last week from the High Court of Bombay.
Local media reported that the Coast Guard was called to remove four of the MV Lucky 7’s 19 crew members, one of whom was injured while the others were described as being extremely sea sick. The vessel wasn’t due to take on any passengers until it reached its final mooring place.
The MV Lucky 7’s launch was preceded by warnings that the timing was ill-advised, given the arrival of the local monsoon season. Following the ship running aground, a local salvager told reporters said the ship’s crew had taken unnecessarily high risks due to the Aguada sandbar area being routinely closed for navigation during monsoon season.
A spokesman for the opposition AAP Goa party told reporters that the government was to blame for the ship running aground, having “overruled” the advice of the Captain of Ports regarding the weather issues. The spokesman alleged that the government’s decision was the result of “huge kickbacks” from gaming stakeholders and warned that the government “must shoulder the entire blame” of any potential environmental damage resulting from the incident.
Congress party secretary Girish Chodankar echoed these criticisms, urging Goa’s chief minister to make some statement on the potential of an environmental disaster from the 12k liters of diesel fuel in the ship’s tanks. Chodankar also claimed that the ship’s owner “should be arrested immediately.”
The MV Lucky 7’s launch brought the number of Goa’s floating casinos to six, although the approval of its license was staunchly opposed by opposition parties and local anti-gambling groups. The government has been trying to find a permanent home for the casinos other than the Mandovi river but has had little luck in convincing other ports in the state to offer the casinos a more permanent berth.
The government recently extended the deadline for relocating the ships to September 30. Last week, the state’s Town and Country Planning Minister suggested bringing the ‘offshore’ casino onshore, where around 10 gaming venues are already plying their trade.