Cannot nip Goa’s casino industry in the bud overnight: Congress

The Congress on Sunday said that it would not be easy to wish away offshore casinos from Panaji, adding that if it comes to power, it would look to regulate the industry to control its “vice” component.

Chairman of the party’s Manifesto Committee and former Union Minister of State for Law Ramakant Khalap also said the party would set up a functional Gaming Commission, as an authority to regulate the casino industry in the state.

“Goa is saddled with the issue of casinos. You have seen what has happened to the Mandovi. We are going to take a very holistic approach to this entire thing. It is not possible to just throw them out in the sea immediately,” he said at a press conference.

The Congress’ take on the controversial casino industry, nearly a week ahead of the state Assembly polls, is a climb down on the party’s stated position on the casino industry. Various party leaders had promised to do away with the offshore casinos berthed in the Mandovi river off Panaji, terming them a menace to the state.

There are currently six offshore casinos on the Mandovi river, while there are nearly 10 onshore casinos functioning out of the numerous five star resorts located along the state’s coastal strip.

Khalap now claims that it was not possible to nip the casino industry in the bud just yet.

“But a Gaming Commission, a regulatory body, will be put into place and we shall see to it that Goans are particularly protected from the vice of gambling, vice of drugs, vice of liquor and all sorts of things that are prevalent in Goa, everywhere for asking. We are absolutely concerned with the issues and appropriate steps will be taken,” he said.

Asked if the party would shut down offshore casinos if it comes to power in the February 14 polls, Khalap said: “I am not saying they (casinos) will be there in the Mandovi. but the whole thing will have to be examined in a proper fashion. From 2012 till today this menace has been created. Overnight you cannot nip it in the bud like that.”

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