The ruling BJP government and its opposition party, the Indian National Congress, have found it difficult to see eye to eye on just about any issue and have been waiting for each other to make a mistake. Goa’s state led BJP government appears to have done just that by suddenly announcing that it had decided to extend the state’s offshore casino licenses by an additional twelve months.
Goa, which has the biggest casino industry in the country, had fiercely debated the issue of allowing offshore casinos to continue on the River Mandovi as religious, political and local groups have all opposed the casino industry. The chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar had asked offshore casinos in 2015 to move out of the River Mandovi and look at an alternate site.
However the offshore casinos were unable to find a suitable location due to technical and administrative issues and as a result, the state government decided on March 31 to extend the licenses for Goa’s offshore casinos for an additional twelve months and allow them to continue to operate on the River Mandovi, till they find an alternate location.
The Congress party had expected the licenses to be cancelled but the BJP government not only extended them but even stated that the government would consider converting the offshore licenses and giving them access to be turned into a land based casino. This sudden move by the BJP led government has irked the Congress party who now allege that casino lobbyists have influenced the government and want the authorities to look into the sudden U-turn made by the state government.
The tourist state of Goa depends heavily on the casino and tourism industry to generate revenue and keep its economy healthy. The failure to renew offshore casino licenses would cost the state dearly and also have an impact on tourism numbers as a lot of domestic and international tourists visit Goa to have a go at the casinos.
Girish Chodankar, the national secretary of the Congress party, has alleged that the state government is allowing the offshore casino industry too many privileges. Chodankar also stated that offshore casinos were deliberately fudging their entertainment taxes and entry fees which cost the state nearly 5,000 crore rupees in annual revenue. The Congress party has accused the state government of back stabbing the people of Goa in an attempt to please casino lobbyists.
Luizinho Faleiro, the president of the Goa Congress party went a step further this week by stating that the state government has encouraged Goa’s casino industry and turned it into a ‘sin city’ that is now rampant with prostitution and corruption.