Politics of Casino economics activates in Goa

GOANEWS DESK, PANAJI | 19 August 2013 22:55 IST

Goa is presently witnessing a very intersting political debate with the BJP government allowing replacing a casino vessel, which was earlier permitted by the opposition Congress, when in power.

The BJP, when in opposition, had promised Goans to wipe out all the casinos, if brought to power.

However, chief minister Manohar Parrikar has now allowed replacement of the old casino vessel, with a bigger vessel, having more amenities and live gaming tables.

Horseshoe, the vessel 13 metres longer than the old Caravela, has 400 guest rooms, almost 100 more.

Confusion still prevails on the number of live gaming tables as Horseshoe believed to be having 100 tables while Caravela had 105.

But Delta Corporation Ltd, who owns this casino vessel besides Casino Royale, claims it has 1500 gaming ‘positions’.

The slots machines are almost 80, compared to 10 machines in the old vessel.

After repeately assuring that he would not allow Horseshoe, Parrikar has finally given permission to the biggest casino vessel among the existing four vessels, to operate from last Friday.

The other two casino vessels, anchored in River Mandovi, are Casino Carnival and Casino Pride.

Though Horseshoe had arrived in River Mandovi on 26 May, the replacement license was held up till recently, pending clearance from Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) and a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Captain of Ports (CoP).

As Parrikar had rejected permission to Jaidev Modi’s new casino vessel on 5 June, the Delta Corp had applied afresh on 8 August.

This has been cleared by the home ministry within eight days, after seeking necessary permissions from the GPSCB and CoP.

The opposition Congress has ridiculed Parrikar, stating that the BJP government policy is to replace smaller casino vessels with bigger vessels.

“It is a sad day as Parrikar, in the name of Parivartan, has brought in India’s largest casino vessel”, said Congress spokesperson Aleixo Reginald Lourenco.

Interestingly, his party working president Francisco Sardinha, who is now South Goa MP and had faced a defeat in Curtorim constituency in 2007 Assembly polls from Lourenco, had said he has no problem with replacement.

Sardinha, as the chief minister, was instrumental in bringing Caravela, Goa’s first offshore casino vessel on 2 December 1999.

Lourenco claimed that granting permission to Horseshoe is like allowing 10 casinos on one vessel.

The Nationalist Congress Party, in the meanwhile, has asked why the casino vessel is allowed to operate with the same amount of fee when the vessel size and even amenities and gaming positions are more than the older ones.

Trajano D’Mello, the NCP chief spokespeson, claimed that the vessel is four times bigger than the old one but the amount of fees is the same.

Both the Congress and the NCP have alleged that this is yet another U turn taken by Parrikar, who had marched with a mashal (torch) in Panaji, opposing offshore casinos.

The cabinet in the meanwhile has resolved not to allow in River Mandovi any offshore casinos, whose licence expires beyond 31 March 2014.

The government has decided to renew licenses of casino vessels, whose license expires on 31 March 2014, for two years within which they have to shift outside River Mandovi.

The opposition members allege that the license of Horseshoe expires on 31 March 2014. 

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