Goa may shift all offshore casinos to land in four years

The mother of all U turns.. a government which when in opposition was against Casinos is now planning on shifting them to land


The state government plans to shift all offshore casinos operating from the Mandovi within four years, a top government source told TOIhere on Saturday. The casinos are likely to be shifted to Mopa, once the international airport is commissioned, the source said.

While the casinos will be shifted to land, the ships that are operating the casinos may be allowed to remain on the Mandovi for tourism activities, the source said. This is part of the draft casino policythat the state government is expected to release early January.

The source also said the government may ask the casino companies to move their ships near the new Captain of Ports jetty so that the navigation channel is not blocked. “This will also help casino companies to handle garbage and sewerage properly,” the source said.

“After the offshore casinos are moved out of the Mandovi river, the ships can continue to remain anchored on the Mandovi to be used for tourism activities,” the source said.

A senior government official, who is involved in the drafting of the casino policy, said the state would have no objection if the offshore casinos moved operations close to the Mopa airport.

Under the concession between GMR, which is constructing the Mopa airport, and the government, land has been already acquired and earmarked for business activities.

“The casino policy will come out in early January and the Goa Gambling Act will be amended in the budget session,” the senior official said. “Within six months of the amendment being passed, offshore casino companies must give in writing that they will shift to an onshore site selected by them within four years,” the official said, adding that failing which the casinos will not be allowed to operate on land.

There are five offshore casinos operating in the state and a sixth one, belonging to former Haryana minister Gopal Kanda, will start operations soon.

The senior official said if casino companies fail to give a written assurance to move out of the Mandovi to onshore operations, they will not be given any further opportunity to renew their licences. The casino licences have to be renewed every year.

 The draft casino policy states the government will amend sections 13 and 13A of the Goa Gambling Act to stop issuing any further onshore and offshore casino licences in the state, the senior official said, adding that a special gaming zone would be demarcated based on the land identified by the casino companies to relocate themselves.
“We will not declare a small area as a special gaming zone. The casino companies will have to set up their operations in a big area. They can even think of moving to the Mopa airport area,” the senior official said.

As per the draft policy, all offshore casino licences will be renewed for a long period, like 15 years, as the casino owners will be investing in infrastructure to move onshore. “Only six casinos will be permitted live gaming,” the senior official added.