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Debacles in the coastal state of Goa continue, as taking those jetties to enter the casinos anchored in River Mandovi may soon become a thing of the past.
According to a recent Times of India report, the Goa government plans to shift all offshore casinos operating from the Mandovi to land within four years. TOI contacted a top government source who said that casinos are likely to be shifted to Mopa, once the international airport is commissioned.
It all started in 2015 when the state government announced the shift before the end of the year but soon decided to extend the deadline to March 31, 2016. On the judgement day, the BJP led government extended the deadline by another year. This year the deadline was further extended till June 30 followed by another 3-month extension a few months later.
Just last week, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar had stated his government would announce the long impending casino policy in a week. As part of the draft policy that is expected in early January 2018, the casinos will be shifted onshore but the vessels that are operating as casinos may be allowed to remain anchored for tourism activities.
According to TOI’s source, the casino operators may be asked to move their ships near the new Captain of Ports (CoP) jetty so that the navigation channel is not blocked. The source quoted, "This will also help casino companies to handle garbage and sewerage properly."
According to a senior government official, who is involved in drafting the casino policy, the state would have no objection if the casinos operations moved close to the upcoming Mopa airport. The report stated that a land has already been acquired for the same after the concession between GMR, which is constructing the Mopa airport, and the government.
The senior official said, "The casino policy will come out in early January and the Goa Gambling Act will be amended in the budget session. Within six months of the amendment being passed, offshore casino companies must give in writing that they will shift to an onshore site selected by them within four years" and if they fail, they will not be allowed to operate on land and will not be given the opportunity to renew their licenses.
As per the draft policy, amendments will be made to sections 13 and 13A of the Goa Gambling Act to prohibit issuance of any further onshore or offshore casino licenses. A special gaming zone would be demarcated based on the land identified by the casino companies to relocate themselves.
Furthermore, all offshore casino licenses will be renewed for a long period, like 15 years, as the casino owners will invest in infrastructure to move onshore. The senior official added that, "Only six casinos will be permitted live gaming."