‘Get rid off all casinos from the river in four months’

As announced earlier, women’s groups and other activists under the umbrella of the Aam Aurat Aadmi Against Gambling (AAAAG), held a two-hour dharna in front of the Captain of Ports Department here on Thursday protesting against the entry of a new casino ship (Horseshoe) in the Mandovi river.

In their memorandum addressed to Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on Statehood Day on Thursday, the groups demanded “liberation of Goa from casino gambling”. The memorandum, signed by the demonstrators, gave an ultimatum to remove all offshore casinos in four months from the Mandovi.

Several organisations and citizens participated in the dharna. Participants included women’s organisations, Bailancho Saad, the National Women’s Front, the All-India Women’s Conference, the Church-affiliated Council for Social Justice and Peace, the Popular Front of India, the Hindu Janjagran Samitti, the Domestic Workers Front, the Goa People’s Forum, the People’s Movement for Civic Action and village groups.

Mayor of Panaji Surendra Furtado and Congress MLA and spokesperson Alex Reginald also joined the dharna to express solidarity.

The AAAAG has told the Mayor that he should initiate steps to remove all casino hoardings in his jurisdiction and the Cutorim MLA to play his role as elected representative to get the casinos out.

The Chief Minister, who was a frontline critic of casinos while in the Opposition, came in for strong criticism for his failure to get rid of them even though he had been in office for over a year.

AAAAG convenor Sabina Martins declared that they would appeal to all MLAs to support the removal of the casinos. The AAAAG will be meeting to draw up the next course of action soon, she declared.

In their memorandum to the Chief Minister, the AAAAG recalled that on the floor of the House, soon after coming to power, he had affirmed that Goa did not require revenue from casinos for its development and even termed the money coming from the casinos as bad money.

However, the AAAAG lamented that till now none of the offshore casinos had been removed. Instead the biggest offshore casino vessel, MV Horseshoe, stealthily sneaked in and anchored on the Mandovi recently.

The memorandum said that instead of keeping a check on casino operations, his government made several amendments to the Goa Public Gambling (Prevention) Act in favour of the casinos. In his first budget last year the entry fee was brought down from Rs. 2000 to Rs. 500.

His amendments removed the powers of the lower courts to deal with casino cases and instead proposed a Gaming Commission with a Gaming Commissioner to hear casino-related matters. However, till date no authority was in place thus allowing them to operate without any accountability.

The memorandum said that the casinos, especially the offshore ones, were operating unregulated, and they had caused considerable damage to the social and economic fabric of Goa.

“Casinos of Goa are avenues for all vices, be it prostitution, drug trafficking, circulation of fake currency, money laundering and so forth. Gambling addiction, destitution and crime has hit Goans hard,” the AAAAG memorandum alleged.

The memorandum lamented that the “river Mandovi today looks like a casino river, because these offshore casinos have not only clogged the river but completely changed the landscape of Panaji jetty. Panjim today looks like a gambling city because of these eyesores stationed in and around the jetty”, it said and went on to demand removal of all casinos from the river in four months.

  • Groups demand ‘liberation of Goa from casino gambling’

  • ‘Casinos have damaged the social and economic fabric of Goa’