Panaji, May 13 (IANS) The casino industry is back in spotlight in Goa ahead of the May 19 Panaji Assembly by-election as the Congress here on Monday criticised the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for making no mention of its earlier promise to remove casinos on the Mandovi river.
Addressing the media at the party office, Congress spokesperson Amarnath Panjikar said the BJP had compromised on the issue of shutting offshore casinos because it was in cahoots with the casino lobby.
“Why have casinos disappeared from the BJP’s Panaji manifesto? Have the casino promoters bribed the BJP? The BJP had talked about removal of casinos from the Mandovi river for years. Why is the party silent on the issue now?” Panjikar said.
Late Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, whose death caused the by-election, had been making this promise since 2012.
There are seven offshore casinos are anchored in the Mandovi river and nine onshore casinos operating from five-star resorts that dot the coastal state.
Goa’s two main political parties, the Congress and the BJP, have a chequered history as far as their respective dispositions towards the casino industry is concerned.
When in the opposition from 2007-2012, the BJP had vociferously opposed casino operations in Goa and promised to shut them on coming to power. Most licences for casinos had been granted by Congress-led coalition governments.
After the BJP came to power in 2012, the Congress started accusing the BJP of being in cahoots with the casino lobby, especially after successive coalition governments headed by it did not shut offshore casino operations.
Congress candidate for the Panaji by-election Atanasio Monserrate first promised to remove offshore casinos from the Mandovi river, but on Sunday said he would look at shifting the offshore casino operations.
Currently, live gaming is only allowed at offshore casinos. Onshore casinos operating from five-star hotels are allowed only to host mechanised casino games.
Goa Suraksha Manch’s Subhash Velingkar, a former state RSS chief also in the fray, has promised to do away with the offshore casinos from Panaji’s jurisdiction.