The opposition Indian National Congress political party has reportedly declared that it will not renew the liquor licenses of the six offshore casinos in Goa if it ends up winning an outright majority in the small coastal state’s ongoing local elections.
According to a report from The Times Of India newspaper, elections in India’s smallest state began on February 2 but the official results are not expected to be announced before March 11 with the center-left Indian National Congress battling the more conservative Bharatiya Janata Party for overall control of the Goa Legislative Assembly.
The Bharatiya Janata Party won 21 of the 40 Goa Legislative Assembly seats at the last election in March of 2012 partly on the back of a promise to close the state’s floating and land-based casinos but it has so far failed to fulfill this pledge amid claims that the venues are responsible for approximately 10,000 direct and indirect jobs and help to attract at least some of the 2.9 million tourists that visit the area every year.
But, the Indian National Congress has reportedly tapped into this anti-gambling sentiment by making the immediate closure of the casinos a major plank of its election campaign despite the fact that the party was in power when Goa legalized slots in 1992 and licensed its first floating casino, the Deltin Caravela from Delta Corporation Limited, in 2002.
An Indian National Congress-led government in Goa subsequently licensed a further five offshore gambling establishments in 2008 and the small western state of around 1.8 million people is now home to 14 land-based and floating casinos including the Mandovi River-based Casino Pride and Casino Carnival from operator Pride Group.
“Once we form the government, I can assure you we will not renew the excise licenses of the offshore casino vessels once they expire on March 31,” Girish Chodankar from the India National Congress’ decision-making All India Congress Committee assembly told The Times Of India. “The [Indian National] Congress party will take appropriate legal remedies to insulate its decision to ban the sale of liquor on offshore casinos from any legal implications. We will have to make sure that the casino operators don’t challenge our decision in the court.”