Goa CM defends decision on offshore casinos

Panaji, Aug 28 (IANS) Goa Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar on Friday said that doing away with offshore casinos would rattle investor confidence vis-a-vis Goa, as he justified the extension given to four offshore casinos on Mandovi river off Panaji.

The earlier Congress government in Goa was liberal in granting casino licences, and this government was forced to persist with the casino industry as “governance is a continuous process”, the chief minister told media at the state secretariat here.

“The government needs to keep in mind various issues, including investor confidence, a pre-requisite for investments,” Parsekar said, justifying his decision to grant extensions up to March 2016 to the four offshore casinos whose licences were to expire in December.

“The present proposal is to extend offshore casino licences up to March 2016 till an alternate site is finalised by the state government, whichever is earlier,” the chief minister said adding that the cabinet had agreed to the proposal.

Goa has nine onshore casinos in five-star resorts and four offshore casinos.

Ahead of the 2012 assembly polls, the BJP, which led a sustained campaign against the casino industry for several years, promised that if voted to power, its government would rid Mandovi river of the casinos.

But the relocation process was delayed, even as the Congress accused the ruling BJP of going “soft” on the casino lobby.

The offshore casino industry expressed reservations about the relocation on logistical grounds and that the ships housing casinos were suited for the conditions in the Mandovi river.

Meanwhile, the move to grant extension in licences was criticised by the Congress, the main opposition party in Goa.

“The government has betrayed the people’s confidence by extending the deadline. It point to politician-bureaucrat-casino nexus in Goa,” Congress spokesperson Durgadas Kamat said.

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