Scientific Game

Goa, Goa, Gone

Indian state’s leader wants an end to floating casinos Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has vowed to eliminate offshore casinos from the western Indian state before he leaves office.

Monday, 24 June 2013 15:08
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“By the time I complete four years, there will be no casino boat in Goa’s waters,” Mr Parrikar said in a recent interview in English language daily The Economic Times.

“We have not entertained any new application,” he said. “Also, one of the casinos which had applied to transfer its licence to another management was denied permission to do so. This is enough to indicate that we have no intention to encourage offshore casinos.”

However, he said the government will continue to renew existing licenses until a legal framework is in place allowing it not to, and he further qualified his position by saying that licensing obligations could see the boats continue in place for at least a year after they’ve been banned.

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Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar

The one-time Portuguese colony on the Arabian Sea coast south of Mumbai is a popular destination for Indian and European tourists and is one of the few jurisdictions in the country where casinos are legal. The state is home to six ship-borne casinos anchored in the River Mandovi in and around the capital city of Panaji. Several more casinos operate in tourist hotels.

The market’s newest and biggest cruise ship arrived on the river last month. The US$6 million MV Horseshoe, a catamaran 87 meters long by 22 meters wide, was acquired by Indian hotel and leisure giant Delta Corp to replace one of its three casino boats. It is expected to be equipped with 1,500 gaming positions, restaurants and private VIP gaming areas.

But Mr Parrikar said he was not notified of the ship’s arrival and has received no application for a transfer of the old boat’s gaming license. “If the matter is put up before me, we will have to examine the matter, as the casino licence of the company is alive, although the [gaming portion] is not functional,” he said. “I don’t know what the legal provision in the matter is.”

Delta also operates 27 holiday residences and 84 suites in two hotels in Goa and wants to bring a luxury floating hotel to the state’s Penha da Franca area, but that plan was put on hold after local residents protested against it.

Meanwhile, an anti-gambling group that isn’t satisfied with plans to gradually phase out the floating casinos issued a statement addressed to Mr Parrikar, saying, “We demand that you rid Goa of all the casinos, including the six offshore casinos, which are presently anchored in River Mandovi in four months and not four years.”

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Casino Royale Goa anchored on the River Mandovi

The group is particularly angered by the arrival of the MV Horseshoe. “We demand that the Horseshoe casino, which is presently anchored in Mandovi without requisite permissions, be sent out of Goa immediately,” said Sabina Martins, an AAAAG spokeswoman.

Speaking to English-language daily The Times of India, she complained that the offshore casinos, which she labeled “eyesores,” are not only clogging river traffic but have changed the landscape of Panaji. She claimed also that the casinos promote prostitution, drug trafficking, counterfeiting and money laundering, and that Goans are suffering from the adverse social impacts.

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