The Tourism Minister of Goa Dilip Parulekar has recently confirmed the residents of the state that offshore casinos will be shifted out of River Mandovi by the end of 2015. In addition to this, the process of shifting the casinos to alternate spots has already started and four locations, namely, Rivers Chapora, Sal, Zuari and Aguada Bay have been singled-out.
Mr. Parulekar feels that Aguada Bay was the most feasible location as the other three rivers had severe constraints. According to the media reports, all offshore casinos in goa had given an undertaking to the Goa Government in 2013 that they would shift out of River Mandovi within 2 years. The Government had renewed the licenses of the offshore casinos for a period of two years based on this undertaking. The two-year deadline for Casino Deltin JAQK expires on August 29, followed by Casino Pride Goa on September 12, Casino Pride II on December 3 and Deltin Royale on December 23.
The negotiations are already going on with casino owners, and they seem to be hesitant to move out of Mandovi River due to commercial reasons. Further, they feel that the casino vessels are easily accessible from the capital city Panaji. However, if an alternate location is not finalized within the two-year deadline, the vessels will continue to operate on River Mandovi on the condition that casinos will have to stop gaming activities. Acknowledging the anti-casino stand of the new government, the casino operators are willing to settle out of Mandovi only if a suitable location within the territorial waters of Goa is identified, where feeder boats can easily pick and drop passengers.
This recent announcement by the Goa Government is set to have a negative impact on the gaming and tourism industry of the state. The BJP-led Government has earlier proposed a series of negative measures against the casino industry like successive hikes in license fees, increase in taxes and ban on entry to locals. Furthermore, a law was passed in 2012 to create a Gaming Commission for monitoring activities of casinos and banning Goan residents and those below 21 years of age, but it is yet to be implemented.