Goa’s Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar and his government have received a lot of criticism from the opposition party and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the state for allowing offshore casinos to continue to operate on the River Mandovi. The government had announced in 2015 that it would relocate all offshore casinos from the River Mandovi to a new location but was unable to do so as the offshore casinos were unable to operate successfully in new waters that the government had suggested.
Earlier this year, the government decided to renew the licenses of these offshore casinos and allow them to continue to operate on the River Mandovi till another location was confirmed. The decision did not go down well with the opposing parties who felt that the government was favoring the casino industry and being biased towards the local communities.
The government could be bailed out of this predicament as the Chowgule family has stepped forward to offer a private and long stretch of land which they own along the Zuari river as a possible site for these offshore casinos. The location, which is close to Chicalim has already been surveyed by the home department and technical studies have been conducted to see if it can be turned into a ‘special offshore casino zone’.
Daulat Chowgule owns the land which measures 35,000 square metres and has a stretch of 300 metres long waterfront located along the riverbank. Prior to the mining closure, the riverfront had a graving dock and was earlier used for ship repairs. Gayatriraje Chowgule, representing the Chowgule’s, made it clear that the family was not looking to make deals with casino owners but were dealing directly with the government and offering them a viable solution as the proposed site is located away from human settlement and would cause the least damage to the environment.
In a statement, Gayatriraje Chowgule said “I know I have walked into the lion’s mouth, but it is for the government to curb the ‘bad side’. My proposal is only keeping in mind that the government has been in search of a site to relocate the casino vessels and this site would not be proposed by the government.”
Chowgule stated that if the government decided to go ahead and use their stretch of waters to relocate these offshore casinos, the government must ensure that all regulations have been met; the environment is protected and must take the fishing community, villages, and all stakeholders into confidence before the relocation process. Chowgule has also put forward a tourism proposal to make the location more popular and wants to introduce a number of water sports. There is also a proposal to build a 260 metre long and 10-metre wide jetty that will be used to dock water sports vessels, houseboats, and super yachts.