Several off-shore casinos have approached the Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) seeking renewal of their licences. And according to reports in The Times of India, the CCP mayor Uday Madkaikar (pictured above) has said a decision is on hold.
Despite enormous political opposition against the river casinos, it looks likely the coronavirus pandemic, with its massive effect on government revenues, could mean the three casinos in contact with the CCP are given new licences to operate.
The civic body is running low on cash, recording a Rs. 11 Crores deficit budget in March for the financial year. One proposal to increase revenue was to double the tax on casinos to Rs. 2 Lakhs a year.
The CCP earns Rs. 56 Lakhs each year from the six floating casinos on the Mandovi river. In addition, the presence of the casinos has a wider economic benefit for Goa, with numerous trades heavily reliant on the industry.
Madkaikar is quoted as saying: "CCP has kept the applications on hold, but in the current situation, local businessmen and tourist taxi operators had come to use and told us that if casinos are closed down, they would have no business."
All relevant stakeholders will be consulted, he added, but the debate promises to stir passions on this issue once again. Panaji MLA Atanasio Monseratte had promised to remove all off-shore casinos within 100 days of winning the 2019 Panaji by-election but has repeatedly reneged on that promise.
Goa casinos have continually been given six-month licences to operate over the last few years, the most recent in April of this year.
The casinos themselves have been hit hard by the lockdown with Casino Pride's boss calling for a tax break among other measures to help the ailing sector.
Despite a loosening of restrictions nationwide, they remain shut, and in June they were told by Pramod Sawant that there were no plans to reopen casinos soon.