28 May 2015

Goa gov extends deadline for shifting offshore casinos

In a u-turn of sorts, the Goa cabinet extended the deadline of shifting offshore casinos from River Mandovi to 31st March, 2016. It may be remembered that in 2012 the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had promised to remove offshore casinos from River Mandovi and shift them into the Arabian Sea. In 2013,conditional five-year license was granted to offshore casinos stating that they would be allowed continue operations only if they shift out of River Mandovi within two years. The cabinet had also taken a decision in August 2013 to limit the number of offshore casinos to five.

In pursuance of these decisions, the state home department had informed the media in June this year that all casinos would have to shift out of Mandovi river by December 2015 (which is the expiry date of the two-year deadline for the last casino vessel), failing which they would not be allowed to continue operations. However, the government has given last minute relief to casino operators as tomorrow (29th August) is the date of expiry of the two-year deadline for Deltin Jaqk. While the government identified four alternate locations; Rivers Chapora, Sal, Zuari and Aguada Bay in June this year, they invited objections and suggestions from members of the general public only this month. The government seems to have taken a decision to not shift casinos since various objections were received on shifting them and no feasible alternative location could be identified.

In a related development, the home department ordered the closure of two onshore casinos at O’ Hotel in Candolim and Bogmallo Beach Resort in Bogmallo, as the five star certification of the two casinos was withdrawn. As per provisions of the Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act, 1976, license for operating electronic games can only be awarded to five star hotels. It is understood that the two hotels will be allowed to restart casino operations if they are awarded five star certification again. The total number of operational onsh0re casinos in Goa at present is nine while four offshore casinos currently carry out operations in River Mandovi.

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