Government indecision frustrates locals
A grass-roots movement is afoot to eject a “flotel” or floating casino hotel from Britona on the River Mandovi in Goa, India, according to the newspaper Herald Goa. “The casino is very close to the church,” said local priest Father Mathew Fernandes, “and we do not want it there.”
Fernandes said the water-based casino has disrupted the local fishery. “A lot of people here depend on fishing, which is their livelihood, and their business would suffer because of the casino,” he said. Villagers are also worried “that the youth may get carried away and take to gambling.”
Casinos on the river have been a point of contention for months. Though the local government has repeatedly promised to relocate four existing casino cruises to another area, the deadline for the boats to move has come and gone twice with no action.
The state had identified four potential locations for the casinos: the River Chapora, Aguada Bay, and two sections in the River Zuari. But those areas were “either not feasible for the casino operators or there was opposition from the locals,” said Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar.
In March, Parsekar said operators of the state’s four offshore casinos had until the end of the month to relocate. But the government intervened and gave the vessels until 2017 to move on. “We are trying our level best to shift the casino vessels out of Mandovi … We have said one year or till we find alternate place,” the chief minister said.
Meanwhile, the government recently decided to allow yet another casino cruise—the MV Royal Flotel Deltin Caravela—to anchor on the River Mandovi. But the uproar caused Captain of Ports James Braganza to move it from Mandovi to Ribandar.
At the same time, the state government is considering a broader land-based industry, saying there is apparently less opposition to casinos on the mainland. Fernandes disagrees, saying the majority of people in Goa do not want casinos anywhere in the state. The priest also criticized Parsekar for refusing to meet with concerned residents. “Our locals under the banner of Britona Villagers Front approached the CM’s office for an appointment to express our grievances,” he said, “but his office informed us he is too busy for the next two months.”
No end is in sight for the controversy. Last month, BJP Goa Unit Chief Vinay Tendulkar further muddied the waters, saying moving all the boats would be counterproductive and possibly prevent future investment in the vicinity, according to India Today. “If we move offshore casinos arbitrarily or terminate their operations, it will damage investor’s confidence in the government,” he said.
Casino News Daily reports that the Parsekar government will name a gaming commissioner within the next two weeks, and may amend its current gaming laws to ban locals from casinos, raise entry fees from 700 rupees to 1,000 rupees, and require all visitors to produce photo IDs.