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Goa gets 7th offshore casino, Congress slams move

Panaji, March 13 (IANS) The Congress on Wednesday slammed the BJP-led coalition government in Goa for allowing a seventh offshore casino vessel, Essel Group’s “Big Daddy”, in the Mandovi river off Panaji, alleging a nexus between the casino industry and the ruling party.

“The entry of the seventh offshore casino in Goa’s Mandovi river has proved our point that the casino lobby is running this government and deciding BJP policies. Moreover, the casino lobby itself has become the ‘Big Daddy’ of the BJP,” Congress spokesperson Sunil Kawthankar told reporters late on Wednesday, shortly after the offshore casino vessel parked in the Mandovi river.

The new offshore casino vessel is leased by Essel Group’s Maharaja line of casinos from a firm belonging to former Haryana Minister of State for Home Gopal Kanda.

There are now seven offshore casinos anchored and operating from the Mandovi river, while there are nine onshore casinos, which function at the numerous coastal resorts.

When in the opposition from 2007-2012, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had vociferously opposed casino operations in Goa, most of the licences for which had been granted by Congress-led coalition governments. Top BJP leaders, including Parrikar, had on several occasions promised to shut down the offshore casino industry once it assumed power in the coastal state.

Once the BJP rode to power in 2012, however, the Congress in turn accused the saffron party for being in cahoots with the casino lobby, especially after successive coalition governments headed by the BJP failed to close down offshore casino operations.



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