Tuesday 21 May 2024

News Analysed, Opinions Expressed

Economy | Tourism

Goa to have offshore casinos


The golden coastline of Goa would be now popularised all over the World for offshore casinos, on board the vessels. Chief Minister Pratapsing Rane's Congress government hurriedly passed a bill to this effect on the last day of the budget session this week, despite stiff opposition from the opposition benches.

The bill simply amended the Goa Public Gambling Act, 1976, adding one line to the existing section which has already authorised games of electronic amusement and slot machines in five star hotels. The insertion to this line states that it would also "authorise table games and gaming on board in vessels offshore, subject to conditions".

While opposing the amendment, the opposition wondered how they could give their opinion without knowing what would be the conditions laid down to safeguard local interests. But the CM declined to provide all the details while assuring that rules would be framed, keeping local environment in mind.

He has clarified that big vessels would be anchored offshore, only one km away, which will come to the shore only to collect the customers, especially the foreign tourists. Every ship would be charged a licence fee of Rs 10 million per year and five per cent over the annual turnover.

Deputy Chief Minister Dr Wilfred de Souza, who is also the tourism minister, admitted while talking to this correspondent later that the licence fee is negligible when any ship can afford to pay upto Rs 50,000 for berthing at the MPT harbour every time. He says proposals have come from several countries as well as the existing five star hotels to start such casino-vessels, but declined to disclose the names.

While passing the bill, Rane said the revenue would be utilised for welfare measures. But the opposition opined that it would defeat the basic purpose of welfare state as the casinos would spoil the social environment totally.

The opposition, especially the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), did not agree with the government that the slot machines started in five star hotels two years ago had not spoiled the local environment. "Several upcoming young entrepreneurs are falling prey to this gambling, setting a wrong trend", they said.

In order to take a precaution, the chief minister said government could restrict only those paying certain amount of income tax visiting the casino-vessels.

Leader of the Opposition Dr Kashinath Jhalmi however strongly felt that the government has clandestine design to malign Goan culture and defame our state. Joining hands with him, the BJP also said Goa does not need the revenue at the cost of our culture and traditions.

Former MGP CM Shashikala Kakodkar wondered why government had brought such an important bill in a hurriedly manner, stating that it's bankruptcy on the part of the government to earn revenue in immoral way to run the state. "Do you want to convert Goa into another Hawai and Singapore", she asked.

Independent MLA Victoria Fernandes, who normally supports the government, also opposed the bill fearing that it may start a new trend of prostitution as the casino visitors would come here for all sorts of enjoyment and not merely to gamble.

Remaining two independents and the sole MLA of United Goans Democratic Party, headed by alleged smuggler-turned MP Churchill Alemao, wholeheartedly supported the government to pass the bill.

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