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In a new development, Aires Rodrigues, advocate and social activist in Goa has moved the High Court objecting to the granting of a license to a sixth offshore casino in Goan waters on several grounds. At the hearing today morning, the Court issued a notice to the Goa government, which sought time for filing its reply and the case has now been posted for hearing next week.
Simultaneously, the ruling BJP party, which was responsible for the renewal of the license has publicly stated that the new casino is expected to bring in ₹50 crores to the state coffers and that was why it cannot be refused.
The issue began sometime in early August this year that despite immense criticism from locals and opposition politicos the government was planning on granting a sixth offshore casino license. The BJP clarified that this was not a new casino, but an old one whose license was being only renewed. However, local activists and opposition Congress and independent members had strongly opposed the sixth casino.
The said license was held by Golden Globe Hotels Private Limited (GGHPL), owned by Gopal Kanda, former Haryana minister, which had expired since 2011, when operations had ceased. The case had gone to Court, with the government seeking full payment of the lapsed annual fees of INR 50 crores along with all penalties, etc, which GGHPL had agreed to pay.
Rodrigues has in his petition claimed that as per an affidavit filed by the Under Secretary Home on December 7, 2015 an expired casino license could not be renewed. He also pointed out that the Goa cabinet had taken a decision in 2014 not to renew expired casino licenses.
However, in response to the last statement, it must be noted that the BJP has already claimed that all the state casino licenses were ‘irreversible’ and they were now ‘fait accompli’ to the government. In September this year, Manohar Parrikar, former Goa Chief Minister, had said this declaring that though the casinos had been brought in by the Congress, they were now business investments that could not be ignored.
Immediately after Rodrigues filed the petition, a report by the goacom.com stated that Laxmikant Parsekar, Chief Minister, Goa has come out openly for the case of the sixth casino and claimed it would contribute an additional ₹50 crores to the exchequer.
Parsekar questioned the logic of refusing the license renewal, saying, “If the government coffer receives this revenue by way of renewal of offshore casino licence, then why should I refuse it in times of financial crunch.”
He went on to claim that his government had stuck to the policy of not granting new licenses; indirectly pointing out that this sixth one was simply a renewal. Parsekar added that the new vessel was not to be considered as a ‘new’ casino and reiterated, “Although a new vessel is allowed to house an offshore casino by way of renewal of licence, we will not issue any fresh licence for such a casino.”
The said vessel is expected to reach River Mandovi before the end of 2016 and it is to be seen how it will be received by the opposing factions.
Cover Image courtesy: Goa News