The state government has limited options to fulfil its promise to shift the offshore casinos out of the eyesight of Panjimites.
The Aguada Bay and the Dona Paula Bay could be the only options for shifting the offshore casinos, given that these two bays are the only ones not directly facing the sea and in bays, the casinos would be protected from the direct impact of the sea, experts feel. Also, depth is only available at the two bays. However, only the Aguada Bay comes under the state government’s jurisdiction, while the Dona Paula Bay falls under the Mormugao Port Trust’s (MPT) jurisdiction.
According to officials, only four offshore casinos are operational at present out of the total seven casinos in Mandovi river. Two casinos do not have the consent to operate, including the one allegedly owned by the controversial Haryana politician, Gopal Kanda. Notices have been sent by the tourism department to this offshore casino. Another offshore casino is almost in the scrap
The functioning offshore casinos are Casino Royale, Boa Sorte, Caravella and the Pride of Goa. According to the experts, when winds pick up at the Aguada Bay, due to the rolling of the ship it would be impossible to operate games like Roulette, and even boarding for normal people would be difficult. Also, while casinos in the Mandovi are within 100 metres from the shore, at the Aquada Bay, they will be anchored at around 700 metres from the shore.
Sections of the Chief Minister, Mr Manohar Parrikar’s constituency, Panaji, are dead against the offshore casinos dotting their skyline. Mr Parrikar while in the opposition, and just before coming to power had assured to relocate the offshore casinos after taking over the reins of Goa.
It may be also recalled that Mr Parrikar in a recent interaction had promised to relocate the four offshore casinos presently operating in the Mandovi, freeing citizens of Panaji from the related problems. He had said, "Before I step down as the Chief Minister of the state, I will ensure that there are no offshore casinos in Mandovi river."
The present government has also decided that Goans would not be permitted on the offshore casinos, shortly and that the facility would only be available for tourists. A legislation has already been enacted and rules are being presently formulated.
Goa is the only state in the country where gambling in casinos is allowed. The state has casinos based in five-star hotels as well as offshore casinos. Officials admit that if casinos are to be termed as offshore, then as per the licencing terms they should be five nautical miles away from the shore. [NT]