Goa tourism minister Dilip Parulekar recently assured citizens that offshore casinos will shift out of River Mandovi by the end of this year. Parulekar added that the process of identifying alternate spots to shift the casinos are already on and four locations, i.e. Rivers Chapora, Sal, Zuari and Aguada Bay have been zeroed in.
The minister however went on to state that Aguada Bay was the most feasible location as the other three rivers had severe constraints. As per media reports, all offshore casinos had given an undertaking to the Goa government in 2013 that they would shift out of River Mandovi within 2 years. The government had renewed the licenses of the offshore casinos for a period of five years based on this undertaking. The two year deadline for Casino Deltin Jaqk expires on 29th August 2015, followed by Casino Pride Goa on September 12th September, Casino Pride II on 3rd December and Deltin Royale on 23rd December.
Goa Home Department officials have added that although negotiations with casino owners are on, in case an alternate location is not finalised within the two year deadline, the vessels will continue to be anchored in River Mandovi but casinos will have to stop gaming activities. Casino owners seem to be reluctant to shift out of Mandovi river due to commercial reasons, as currently the casino vessels are easily accessible from the heart of Panaji. However given the anti-casino stand of the new government, the casino operators are willing to compromise and ready to shift out of Mandovi if a satisfactory location within the territorial waters of Goa is identified, where feeder boats can easily pick and drop passengers.
This fresh announcement by the Goa government is expected to have an adverse impact on the gaming and tourism business in the state. The BJP-led government has initiated a serious of negative measures against the casino industry including successive hikes in license fees, increase in taxes and announcement of a ban on entry to locals. An amendment creating a Gaming Commission to monitor activities of casinos and ban Goan residents and those below 21 years of age had been passed by the legislative assembly in 2012, but a notification to implement the new law has been pending for the last three years.