There has been ongoing debate in Goa over the agreement to license five casino ships to operate in the Mandovi river. Many have not opposed the casinos so much as their location citing congestion in the river harbor and too much temptation for locals to gamble when they can ill afford to. Those members of government think the ships should be asked to operate in the Arabian Sea instead of the Mandovi River.

The controversy began to escalate when members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) staged a protest against the river casinos by leading a procession that blocked an off shore casino operator’s access to and from his office for close to three hours. Then on June 15, the BJP issued a demand on the government to cancel all off shore casino licenses.

In a press statement, the BJP Chief Shripad Naik told reporters, “We don’t require any off shore casino. State government should cancel all the licenses by bringing in amendment to Anti Gambling Act.”

Not so subtly accusing government officials of taking bribes, Naik went on to say that “through massive kickbacks floodgates for off shore casino licenses are opened which has resulted in casino ships in dozens lined up in Mandovi River.” While there are a few ships waiting for the other three licenses to be issued, it is definitely not dozens and not quite the navigational danger that Naik has claimed.

The BJP is not the only group in Goa to be in opposition to casinos. Anti-gambling activists held a protest on June 29 and called upon the Chief Minister Digambar Kamat to consider the wishes of the people and disallow any casinos in the state at all. Among the protesters were women’s activists, political activists and people from the villages that the casino boats have searched for berthing opportunities. Demonstrators claim that the fact that the ships need to go from village to village trying to find a place to berth shows that the people in the villages do not want the casino ships.