Deadline to relocate ships is March 31
Laxmikant Parsekar, chief minister of the Indian state of Goa, will leave any decision about the licensure of a sixth casino boat in the region to the new government, according to the Times of India. The offshore license belongs to Golden Globe Hotels Private Ltd., a subsidiary of former Haryana minister Gopal Kanda’s MDLR Group.
“Let the new government, which would be formed after March 11, take a decision,” Parsekar told the Times. The license was initially granted in 2008 when the Congress Party was in power, he pointed out. “We have collected the dues and renewal license fee of around Rs 44.5 crore from the casino company but it is not binding on the state government to renew the license.”
In January, the casino company appealed to the high court of Bombay at Goa asking for a decision on the license application. It was first submitted in July 2016 with the expectation that it would be processed within a month. GGHPL paid Rs 44.5 crore in annual recurring fees from September 2011 to September 2016 and Rs 20 lakh in license renewal fees for five years from September 2016 through September 2021.
The Congress Party and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have long pledged to do away with casinos, both on land and offshore. The BJP pledged several times to relocate the casino cruises off the Mandovi River, but each deadline passed without action. Current Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar said the BJP has not done away with casino boats as promised in 2012 because “the solution to where to place them was not found.” The BJP also said lost revenue from a ban on mining forced the government to allow casinos to remain.
The BJP’s newest deadline to order the ships out is March 31. But the current government has yet to identify a site for their relocation, reported the Herald Goa.
If elected, the opposition promises to ban the boats outright, according to the Asia Gaming Brief. “Once we form the government, I assure you we will not renew the excise licenses of the offshore casino vessels once they expire on March 31,” said AICC Secretary Girish Chodankar.
Goa is one of three Indian states—with Sikkim and Daman—that permit casinos. Part of the controversy surrounding the industry is speculation that local gaming operators have cheated the state government of INR45,000 crore (USD6.62 billion) in tax revenues.