Parrikar and Congress Differ on Offshore Casino Stance

Chief Minister Monohar Parrikar has shown that he is somewhat ambivalent when it comes to removing casinos from the Mandovi River. When he was leader of the opposition, he made some promises ahead of the elections in 2012 that he has not taken a firm stand with at this time.

Congress has now announced its decision that it will be opposing the transfer of casino licenses for the offshore casinos. Chief Minister Parrikar has not shown his full support for this move and John Fernandes, the Goa Pradesh Committee president, has taken a strong position, and has blasted Parrikar for his ambivalent stance on the issue.

Mr. Fernandes said: “Mr. Parrikar must keep his promises (to remove casinos from river Mandovi) he made ahead of March 2012 Assembly election as leader of opposition by taking to streets with women and activists opposed to casino gambling as cultural pollution.” Fernandes further cautioned the Chief Minister not to become a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality.

Mr. Fernandes further stated his position: “We feel casino on ships, outside five-star hotels are immoral and illegal, whoever might have allowed them. Casino culture cannot be allowed to spill over on the streets of capital city of Panaji. I reiterate, we cannot allow Panaji to be made a sin city.”

The issue has come up again since the Sahara Group wanted to replace one of its current floating offshore casinos with a new 150-room vessel. Another of the offshore casino companies wanted to replace a casino with another one when the company changes ownership.

In the past, Congress has allowed various amendments in the offshore casino law. Mr. Fernandes explained: “If somebody has amended the law to allow casinos in backwaters of Mandovi, then it is a bad law. We have found out that the amendment in this regard was passed by then Cabinet by only circulating it. [The] word ‘offshore casino’ is not even defined in this casino statute.”