Panaji, June 26 (IANS) A former prison and a 17th century fort could be the new picturesque backdrop for Goa’s offshore casinos, Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar said on Friday, adding that the fort itself could be used as hub for casino infrastructure.
“We are in the process of relocating the casinos by the end of the year to the Aguada bay. They have to move out of the Mandovi river. The bay near Aguada fort is the best option,” Parulekar told IANS on Friday.
“They can even use the fort for their offices and other infrastructure after taking permission from the government,” he said on the sidelines of a private event in Panaji.
The iconic fort, which is home to one of Asia’s oldest lighthouses, was once a key coastal sentinel for the colonial Portuguese forces and later served as a prison for Indian freedom fighters.
The fort currently houses a prison, but in the coming months all the prisoners are expected to be shifted to a new prison premises located 20 km from here.
Parulekar said that with the fort being rendered vacant, the casino operators would be in a good position to utilize the same. “I have told them to approach the government for the purpose,” Parulekar said.
Goa has nearly a dozen onshore casinos located in the numerous five-star resorts in the beach state as well as five operational offshore casinos.
Ahead of the 2012 state assembly poll, the BJP, which had led a sustained campaign against the casino industry for several years, promised that if voted to power, its government would rid the Mandovi of the casinos.
But the relocation process was delayed, even as the Congress accused the ruling BJP of being “soft” on the casino lobby.
The casino industry expressed reservations about the relocation to Aguada bay, a short distance from the capital, claiming rough waters and absence of infrastructure in the area.