In recent times, Goa has embraced its status as the leading casino tourism destination of the country and there has been a gradual but effective rise in the casino industry, given that it is a significant source of revenue. In spite of the rising popularity, the industry has been a matter of political heat and opposition.
Michael Lobo, the Port Minister of Goa, has stated that the offshore casinos should not be shifted out of Mandovi River and also insisted on the induction of more such vessels in other rivers surrounding the state. Lobo’s statement is a stand against the BJP led government who have made it a point to relocate the offshore casinos from Mandovi River in Panaji after facing resistance from the natives.
The transfer of ships to an alternate, more suitable location, the Aguada Bay, has been an ongoing point of debate, having been announced by Lobo in October 2019. Furthermore, the Captain of Ports (COP) will be looking to identify a suitable location at Aguada to relocate the offshore casinos.
Michael Lobo has gone on record to say the following: “I still remember our former Chief Minister, Mr. Manohar Parrikar, saying that the state is not dependent on the money collected as taxes from casinos. But I am trying to say the exact opposite.” He says that it is very evident for everyone to see that the entire industry generates employment and helps Goa’s economy. The casinos help in the generation of revenue in the form of GST and charge fees from them for their annual renewal of licenses. He goes on to say that, “Every year the renewal fees are levied by departments like Food and Drugs Administration, Excise and others.”
The Port Minister was also not in favour of moving the casinos to Mopa Airport in the Northern district of Goa. “Mopa can be a different set up all together, we can have a live gaming zone there. But in my opinion, the casinos should continue to float in the Mandovi River.”
As of now, six offshore casinos are operating in the waters of the Mandovi. Lobo suggests that more casinos should be set afloat in the Chapora River in North Goa as well as in the Zuari River, South Goa. The casinos are assets in the sense that they provide employment to more than 400 people and trying to freeze the industry overnight is a pitiful effort. Furthermore, the initiation of casinos in these rivers will help in reviving and adding to the economy of the state.
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