The economy of the Indian state of Goa “is dependent on casinos,” said the chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar on Saturday, as reported by the country’s NDTV news outlet.
The official was commenting on yet another chapter in the on-off relationship that administrations of both main political parties – the Indian National Congress, known as Congress, and the Bharatiya Janata Party, commonly known as the BJP – have had with land-based and boat-based casinos in the state.
Goa has five offshore vessels (one pictured in a file photo) and several onshore casinos, according to local media reports.
The chief minister was reported as denying that the government had plans to shift an offshore casino vessel referred to as the Deltin Caravela, anchored in the Mandovi River near the outskirts of the state capital, Panaji.
“No one has moved any file or note to me asking to shift the [Caravela] offshore casino,” he additionally stated.
NDTV said that State Forest Minister, Rajendra Arlekar, on Friday announced he had asked a port official to move the offshore casino vessel, as it was anchored near a bird sanctuary.
But in Saturday comments from Mr Parsekar, reported by NDTV, he appeared to play down the idea that existing casinos might have to leave the state entirely.
“The state’s economy is dependent on casinos. But at the same time it should not be misunderstood that I am supporting to increase the number of casinos in the state,” chief minister Mr Parsekar said.
“I have taken information about how many Goans are employed on casinos. The casinos create direct and indirect employment opportunities,” Mr Parsekar added.
NDTV reported that several non-governmental organisations recently held demonstrations against casinos in the state – a popular destination for overseas tourists – alleging that prostitution and other crimes are on the rise because of such gambling venues.
On Saturday, the Times of India newspaper reported the chief minister as saying on Friday that his policy wasn’t to increase casinos in Goa but to raise tariffs to deter poor people from visiting them.
“Because of an increase in tariffs, there has been a decrease in onshore casinos in the state. There were 18 land-based casinos earlier. This number has now been reduced to a single digit,” the newspaper quoted Mr Parsekar saying.
The chief minister, who represents the BJP, added, with reference to Congress and as quoted by the Times of India: “I’ve said, time and again, that I have not permitted any new casinos in the state. In fact, these very casinos were allowed by those who are now opposing them.”
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”We expect Goa to quickly become a US$1 billion market as it transitions to land-based casinos (from US$150 million today), which is still just a fraction of India’s total GGR potential of US$10 billion to US$17 billion”
Analyst at Union Gaming Securities Asia