Offshore casinos in Goa have been shut down since March, and like a lot of other businesses, they have been piling up the losses. Given the fact that the threat of the pandemic doesn’t seem to be reducing resulting in the prolonged closure, the casino industry has again landed themselves in trouble with the Corporation of City of Panaji (CCP). It’s almost been a month since the casino trade license renewal applications were put on hold, the Mayor of Panaji, Uday Madkaikar has accused the media of misquoting him on the issue. He has firmly re-iterated the CCP’s initial stance of not renewing the trade licenses for the casinos.
The CCP is the governing body responsible for the renewals of trade licenses of casinos operating in the River Mandovi.Due to continued public and political opposition to the presence of casinos in the river, the Corporation had announced last month that by 2020 onwards, it would not be renewing the trade license of any offshore casino.
The Mayor first hinted at loosening the stance on this issue in March when he said that the final decision was still to be made. According to a report in the TOI, Madkaikar said,
“The question of renewing licenses for offshore casinos doesn’t arise at all. Our stand and that of Babush (Atanasio Monserrate) is firm. We don’t want casinos in Panaji.”
Clearing up the fact that his statements about offshore casinos were misquoted, Madkaikar said,
“I was just telling the press what the taxi operators and prominent businessmen requested. They have been asking me not to stop casinos as business is already down due to COVID. Shutting down casinos will worsen the situation. They requested that licenses be given at least for two years.”
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He further underlined that this was a sensitive decision to make that required all Corporation members’ consensus.
“I can’t take the decision alone. I will have to take permission from the councilors. A council resolution to renew their trade licenses will have to be taken.”
The underlying problem with offshore casinos remains the fact that they have been an eyesore for some locals for various reasons, and this fact has been exploited by most of the political groups sitting in opposition benches.
The government has tried to find solutions like shifting the casinos to a different part of the Mandovi or to Aguanda Bay with the end-goal of transferring them to the Mopa Airport Complex, but none of them have come to fruition. Also, the government permission to operate from Mandovi expired for these casinos in April, where the state cabinet granted another six-month extension. Given the financial contributions made by the casinos to the state, predominantly in taxes and license fees, it seems unlikely that the CCP will be able to hold out against the casino industry. For the time being, the only thing we can do is wait and hope that the best decision is made.