PANAJI: Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar on Wednesday stated that all the four offshore casinos presently operating from Mandovi river would be moved away to new locations after their current licences expire later this year.
“The Captain of Ports is currently hunting for alternate locations for these offshore casinos, and the government is trying its level best to shift them to the new locations once they are identified,” he added, while informing the state legislative assembly during the Question Hour.
“However, I feel that the government needs to think sympathetically about these offshore casinos since on one side, we are encouraging the investors, while on the other we are asking the people (casino owners) who have invested money to move out.”
As per the information provided to the House, the licence issued to the casino M V Horseshoe expires on August 29, 2015, that to casino M V Pride of Goa expires on September 12, 2015, one issued to casino M V Boa Sorte expires on December 3, 2015, and licence issued to casino M V Casino Royale expires on December 23, 2015.
Earlier, the Opposition led by Porvorim MLA Rohan Khaunte grilled the Chief Minister, who also holds the home portfolio, over the issue.
Parsekar said that presently the offshore casino policy of the government as per the cabinet decision, which is being implemented, states, “The licences of all those offshore casinos, which are expiring on or before March 31, 2014 may be considered for extension for a period not exceeding two years to enable them to make alternate arrangements of moving out of river Mandovi.”
“The licences of all those offshore casinos, which are expiring after March 31, 2014 shall not be renewed for operation in river Mandovi,” he quoted the cabinet decision, and assured that no further offshore casinos would be permitted in the state.
Replying to a question from the Porvorim MLA, Parsekar reiterated that there are only four offshore casinos operating in river Mandovi, while the fifth vessel seen in the river – M V Royale Flotel – has just been moored there with the permission of the Captain of Ports, and this permission is being renewed annually.
“We are not concerned if the owner of this vessel is making efforts to start a casino on the vessel,” he noted, mentioning that henceforth, no permission would be given to any offshore casino to function in river Mandovi.
The Porvorim legislator alleged that the government, contrary to its policy, is trying to issue backdoor licences to the offshore casinos, further stating that the licence of the casino M V Caravela, which expired on March 31, 2013, was renewed and transferred to M V Royale Flotel, through a corrigendum dated July 8, 2014.
“How could the licence be transferred when it had already expired,” he questioned, reminding the government that all licences that expire after 2014 were not supposed to be renewed.
Parsekar, replying to a question from Tivim MLA Kiran Kandolkar, informed that the government is earning annual revenue of Rs 80 crore from the offshore casinos.
The House witnessed noisy scenes as more opposition members including independent MLA Naresh Sawal and Congress legislator Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco joined Khaunte in protest against the clarification given by the Chief Minister.
Margao MLA Digambar Kamat said that during his tenure as chief minister, to be specific in the year 2009, he had directed the Captain of Ports to issue showcase notices to the offshore casinos, for moving them out of river Mandovi. “Subsequently, the owners of the offshore casinos approached the court and sought a stay,” Kamat said, adding that the offshore casinos are still in river Mandovi due to this stay.
He also questioned as to what steps are being taken by the government to get the stay revoked.