Offshore casinos to stay put for a year: Goa CM

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Panaji, March 31 (IANS) Going back on a major poll promise to relocate offshore casinos out of the Mandovi river off Panaji, Goa Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar on Thursday said the casinos will continue there for one more year until suitable alternative sites are finalised.

“The casinos have been given one year extension to remain in the Mandovi till March 31 next year or until a feasible alternate site is found, whichever is earlier,” he said.

The licences granted to the offshore casinos were due to expire on March 31.

“We had identified four locations which were Zuari river, Mandovi river mouth, Aguada Bay and Chapora river. But these locations were either not feasible for the casino operators or there was opposition from the locals,” Parsekar said.

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The decision not to relocate the casinos in haste was taken by the cabinet after casino employees petitioned the state government against it.

“The employees petitioned the government to not shift the casinos as they might lose their jobs or travel long distances to the workplace, the chief minister said.

Reacting to the decision to postpone the relocation, the main opposition Congress said it was a clear case of “back-stabbing” the people of Goa.

“The BJP government today has crossed yet another milestone of shameless U-turn on its own promise with this decision, which bolsters our belief and claim that the BJP government is run by the casino lobby,” Congress general secretary Sunil Kawthankar said in a statement.

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

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The BJP-led coalition government is now being accused by the Congress, as well as the civil society of backing the casino industry.

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