The Congress party on Friday announced its decision to oppose transfer of offshore casino licences, if any amendment to this effect was moved by the BJP government in the budget session of the State Legislative Assembly scheduled to begin next week.
Addressing presspersons at the Congress headquarters in Panaji on Friday, Goa Pradesh Committee president John Fernandes blasted Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar for his ambivalent stand on offshore casinos, and reiterated his demand that casinos must be shunted out of river Mandovi.
"Mr. Parrikar must keep his promises (to remove casinos from river Mandovi) he made ahead of March 2012 Assembly election as leader of opposition by taking to streets with women and activists opposed to casino gambling as cultural pollution," said Mr. Fernandes and advised him not to become "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde".
While Mr. Parrikar has not cleared whether or not transfer of licences would be allowed, the BJP has opposed the transfer recently. The Congress will oppose it in the Assembly or even if the government does it through an ordinance.
The move, said Mr. Fernandes, was aimed at allowing a new 150-room boat belonging to Sahara Group, presently in a Goa dockyard, to replace one of the existing offshore casinos and also to allow another offshore casino belonging to a local group, which was changing hands.
"We feel casino on ships, outside five-star hotels are immoral and illegal, whoever might have allowed them. Casino culture cannot be allowed to spill over on the streets of capital city of Panaji. I reiterate, we cannot allow Panaji to be made a sin city,” Mr. Fernandes said.
Recalling the history of casinos in Goa, Mr. Fernandes said that as a member of Tourism
Consultative Committee for eight years he was involved in the decision to allow casinos in Goa's five-star hotels, as it was felt that tourism revenue of the country was drained to Nepal.
"We even discussed the issue with then President of India to convince him that they must be allowed only to promote tourism," he said and described it as an "exception made to stop tourism revenue from going out of the country."
"If somebody has amended the law to allow casinos in backwaters of Mandovi, then it is a bad law. We have found out that the amendment in this regard was passed by then Cabinet by only circulating it. Word offshore casino is not even defined in this casino statute," said Mr. Fernandes without naming Congress government, which allowed the offshore casino amendment in the past.