The BJP ruling government in the state of Goa continues to be pressured to ban the casino industry in the state and to immediately re-locate all offshore casinos on the Mandovi River. The issue has been discussed for over a year but Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar earlier this year decided to extend the licenses for off-shore casinos and also allow them to continue to operate on the River Mandovi, as the offshore casinos had not been successful in their attempt to find new waters to re-locate.

The Chief Minster has faced a lot of criticism from the opposition National Congress Party and from religious organisations such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).  Earlier this week, Rajendra Arlekar the forest minster of Goa created more noise after he ordered Deltin Caravela, one of the floating casinos to move as it had anchored within 100 meters of the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary.

The Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is the only bird sanctuary in the state and is a specially protected area. The minister stated that the floating casino was responsible for air and noise pollution in the region which could have a significant impact on the ecology and thereby affect the birds. The minister had asked the captain of Deltin Caravela for more details on the vessel last week but no information has been provided so far.

Congress MLA Pandurang Madkaikar, MLA Rohan Khaunte, activist Aires Rodrigues and a number of other parties have also protested against the Deltin Caravela being anchored so close to the bird sanctuary. Arlekar stated that he would get in touch with the home minister and ask for the vessel to be shifted at the earliest.

The Chief Minister has tried to emphasize that his government has not brought in any new casinos and has only renewed existing casino licenses. He has asked opposing parties to be patient as it was not possible to abruptly shift these offshore casinos. Parsekar stated that both the central government and the state government had invited investors into the casino industry and his government could not suddenly kick them out of Goa.

Parsekar stated that he could not legally deny the renewal of licenses for the casino industry nor could he suddenly ban all casinos in the state as it generated significant revenue and also provided thousands of jobs to the locals. In a statement, Parsekar said “The other party will go to the court of law. There is a law of the land. They will get a stay order. You (media) will write tomorrow ‘a slap on the face of chief minister’. Will it be tolerable? Is it right?: