Owners failed to follow government directive

The Goa State Tourism Department is set to put in motion the process to take over the possession of MV Leela, a casino vessel owned by the former Haryana Minister Gopal Kanda, as its owners failed to comply the directives to tow the vessel from its current position of anchorage in the Mandovi.

Notice to management

Director of Tourism, Nikhil Desai, told The Hindu on Friday that they have issued notice to the management of the vessel over a month back asking it to remove the vessel from its current position as it was causing hardship to movement of traffic, besides there was every possibility of it breaking from the anchorage and causing damage to life and property.

The notice was issued under the provisions of the Tourist Places (Protection and Maintenance) Act, but the management of the vessel, whose casino licence had expired, failed to obey the directions forcing the government to take pre-emptive action.

Mr. Desai said the Tourism Department will next ask the Magistrate to take over the possession of the vessel and tow it away from its current anchorage point and keep it at a safe place to avert any damage to life and property. The cost of removal of the vessel and its safekeeping would be recovered from the owners as provided in the Act.

New vessel row

With the advent of a new mega vessel MV Horseshoe in the Mandovi last week, the Chief Minister is once again at the receiving end of the anti-casino gambling brigades.

They have issued him a deadline of four months to move out all casino vessels from the river. His statement said that all casino vessels would be moved out during his present term, which has nearly four years to go, has impressed none.

He said on Wednesday that he had asked the Law Department to study the legal provisions and present a report to him as to whether the new vessel belonging to Delta Corporation Limited can be issued a licence to operate a casino. Sources in the State Law Department, however, said no file had been received in this regard till Friday.

The agitators, led by Sabina Martins of Bailancho Saad, women’s collective, are concerned that the vessel is believed to be three to four times the size of Casino Royale (four decks) which it seeks to substitute.

This vessel holds 1,500 gaming positions with 155 tables and 250 slot machines.

“According to me, the MV Horseshoe is presently just a ship and not an offshore casino as being made out by some people, even if it is fitted with the gambling equipment,” the Chief Minister told presspersons early this week.

“Unless and until gambling operations start on any vessel through a valid licence, it cannot be called an offshore casino,” he said. Moreover, he clarified that the permission to anchor the vessel in the Mandovi was given considering the monsoon, which could hit the State any time.

Regulating body

While the agitators are getting anxious, Mr. Parrikar said he needed some time to put in place the mechanism of Gaming Commission to regulate the casinos. His amendments to the Goa Public Gambling (Prevention) Act passed a few months back mooted the idea of a Gaming Commissioner and other regulatory mechanisms are still to be notified.

Licence transfer

Senior officials of the Home Department said the government was processing the application of the Delta Corporation Ltd., the owners of MV Arabian Sea King, a floating casino, for transferring its licence of casino operation to the new vessel, MV Horseshoe. Jaydev Mody’s Delta Corporation Ltd. holds three of the five operational offshore casino licenses in Goa. It operates MV Arabian Sea, Casino Royale and Caravella.

The management of MV Arabian Sea King had informed the government that it would like to replace the old vessel used as floating casino with the new one, and that the licence for operating casino be granted for the same.

As regards permitting the new vessel to enter the Mandovi, the officials said the management of the vessel sought special permission from the Captain of Ports (CoPs) stating that after the monsoon sets in it would not be able to possible to bring the vessel until after the end of monsoon session because of formation of sand bar. Sources in the Captain of Ports (CoPs) Department insist the permission was granted after due permission from the government.

Licence fee

The government charges a licence fee of Rs. 6.5 crore per offshore casino, per year. Plus the casinos pay entry fee which Mr. Parrikar brought down from Rs. 2,000 by previous government to Rs. 500 inviting ire of the anti-casino activists.

  • ‘Remove the vessel from its current position as it is causing hardship to movement of traffic’

  • Activists set a deadline of four months to move out all casino vessels from the Mandovi