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Goa’s casinos have over the last year existed in a state of limbo, uncertain of their future. In July, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had stated that all offshore casinos would be relocated to land at the city’s upcoming airport project in Mopa. In a written reply to a question raised by BJP legislator Wilfred D’Sa in the Legislative Assembly, Sawant had announced that the airport would have an integrated zone that would house casinos, as well as wellness, eco, and adventure resorts.
Almost two months after this written response, Goa’s casino policy continues to remain under consideration. Though the Mopa project is likely a long-term solution to the plight of the casino industry, it may require quite a lot of time to come to fruition. In the meantime, the agitation around getting the offshore casinos out of the Mandovi River has been steadily building. Both political and social groups have been putting pressure on the state government to take action.
In the latest development, Ports Minister Michael Lobo on September 24 announced that the department of ports has been directed to identify a suitable location at Aguada Bay to relocate the offshore casinos from River Mandovi.
“An inspection of the proposed location will take place within three days,” Lobo told reporters.
On Tuesday, CM Sawant also held a meeting with the Panaji MLA to discuss the shifting of the offshore casinos, possibly as an interim measure till the Mopa project is ready.
“The captain of ports has to identify a location to which the casinos can be shifted; the spot should be safe access to tourists who travel to the casinos in feeder boats. We will look into the feasibility by this week,” said Lobo.
Back in June, Sawant had admitted that casinos were vital for tourism and Lobo reiterated that point saying that casinos bring customers and revenue to businesses in Panaji.
Another Panaji MLA, Atanasio Monseratte has been demanding the state government to move the casino ships out of the Mandovi, and during an Assembly session, Lobo too agreed with the Monseratte’s suggestion that the offshore casinos should be shifted to Aguada Bay.
With the government still waiting to conduct an inspection of the site where the ships will be moved, an unnamed casino operator has already shown interest in relocating.
Lobo revealed, “One of the operators has shown willingness to move his casino, and now we have to check its feasibility before taking the decision.”
There are presently six offshore casinos in Goa, while one operator may be willing to move, the other five are yet to disclose their opinion.
In the absence of a concrete casino policy, the fate of the industry still hangs in the balance.