Even as the fight against Casinos, particularly those afloat on the Mandovi River, continues, the government which is holding on its stance that Casino’s are important for tourism is likely to grant licenses to two more casinos to be located onshore in hotels.
In his election manifesto, Panaji MLA, Anastasio Monserrate, had declared that all off-shore casinos would be shifted. This seemed to be the template for all campaigning parties, particularly the BJP who vowed to remove the casinos, particularly under the regime of the late Chief Minister.
But no sooner were the elections over, that everyone seemed to be back-tracking on an issue that has long been a bone of contention with Goans, particularly the residents of Panaji.
According to a report in Incredible Goa (Casinos are in the interest of the tourism industry –CM) recently, Chief Minister, Pramod Sawant defended the government’s stance on casinos, when they appeared in a promotional video of Goa Tourism. “It is a part of the State’s tourism. Out of the total number of tourists visiting Goa, some tourists come here for casinos. Government is a continuous process and we can’t close things overnight.”
According to this source, he further added, “In the present circumstance, tourists are coming to visit casinos as well. Keeping in mind that Goa is a tourist place and with regards to the tourism sector, we need to promote every activity, which brings interest to tourists and also helps the development of the State.”
Now, in what seems to be a fresh salvo on the people, the State government, according to a report in The Goan, is likely to grant two more licenses to two hotels who want to establish casinos on their properties in North Goa. Currently, in Goa 12 casinos are operating on land and in five-star hotels and 6 off-shore casinos are anchored in the Mandovi River.
Quoting sources, The Goan informed that of the two hotels seeking licenses, one is located in North Goa’s Bardez Taluka, while another that has just come up in Tiswadi’s township on the Old-Goa highway pass, on Kadamba plateau has also approached the government with queries, although it has not furnished a formal application. The government’s decision to grant the license is also pending.
While the State government is still open to granting permissions to set-up new casinos in 5-star hotels on land, it has gone on record to say that it will not grant any more licenses for off-shore casinos. The government, however, has given them an extension of another six months, instead of closing them down as promised earlier.
According to this source, the State earns substantial revenue from these casinos amounting to around Rs 250 crores in addition to that from entrance fees and other applicable local taxes. The government had also hiked the annual license fee for these casinos.
The current imbroglio notwithstanding, the government is holding on to its stance that casinos are vital to tourism in the state.
Source: The Goan