Uday Madkaikar, the mayor of Panaji, confirmed that the city’s authorities would not renew the business licences of the six floating casinos on Mandovi river in Goa, once their current licences expire next spring. He also announced intention to ban Goans from gambling in casinos.
The floating casinos will be forced to relocate
As the mayor declared the renewal will not be granted to offshore casinos and the Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) is preparing to pass a resolution in that regard, the operators will no longer be allowed to do business in Goa or utilize signboard registrations, when their existing trade licences expire next April—June. This means either a new location will have to be found for them or they will have to close.
So far the government has been looking at four possible new locations, out of which the mouth of Mandovi river at Aguada Bay, near Goa’s capital Panaji, seems to be the most feasible one. The casino operators have indicated they would agree to the move, as long as the government can provide the necessary infrastructure, including sufficient dock space to pick up and drop off the casinos’ visitors. The suitability of the location is still being assessed and nothing has been officially decided.
Recent years have also seen plans to bring the floating casinos on land to a designated gaming zone in the vicinity of the Mopa airport. This idea has been repeatedly postponed and no news has been heard of any progress in this direction, even though the suggestion did resurface now that the refusal to renew the casinos’ licences has been formally announced.
Goa’s gambling will be restricted on customers’ side as well
In the effort to stop Goans gambling in the casinos, the government is not focusing only on the operators. Far from content with only sending off the floating casinos elsewhere, Madkaikar also expressed an intention to ban Goa citizens from entering the casinos altogether.
He was thus echoing an opinion voiced by Chief Minister of Goa, Pramon Sawant, who summed up the situation as follows:
“Casinos are for tourists. We will fix a date. After this date, no more Goans will be allowed in casinos.”
These claims had been brought on by the observation that even though during the weekends the casinos were generally packed with foreign tourists, the week days saw 80% of the casino traffic come from local residents. The vows were also responding to demands made by Atanasio Monserrate, who represents Panaji at the state level having recently won a by-election on a promise to remove offshore casinos from Goa within 100 days.
Despite the gambling situation being a thorn in the sight of a number of political and non-political groups for quite a while now, there is no denying that the casinos play a significant part in Goa’s operating budget. As the Legislative Assembly was informed by Sawant last week, the six offshore casinos together with the eight casinos on land generated Rs4.11 billion ($57.7 million) in taxes and fees over the previous fiscal year.