Politicos promise to drive casinos out of Panaji

Politicos promise to drive casinos out of Panaji

Offshore casinos parked in the Mandovi river off Panaji have once again been dragged into controversy, with both the Congress as well as a former Goa RSS sanghachalak promising to drive casinos out of the state capital, if voted to power. 

Both candidates, in their poll manifestos, promised to do away with the casinos, which over the last decade have been the subject of political controversy. 

“My promise to you is that I will remove the casinos from the Mandovi river 100 days after coming to power,” Atanasio Monserrate, Congress candidate for the May 19 Panaji assembly bypoll said in his election manifesto.  

On Friday, Subhash Velingkar, a veteran Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh volunteer who is contesting the assembly bypoll on a Goa Suraksha Manch ticket, promised to drive away offshore casinos from Panaji’s shores. 

"Casinos have destroyed the Panaji city, by their sheer presence and the social ills which they propagate. I promise to do away with them from the city. Casinos attract other vices like prostitution, extortion, drugs, etc,” Velingkar told DH on Friday.  

The casino industry has much to do with the contemporary political history of Panaji. The first offshore casino licences were allotted in 1999, but under a Congress-led coalition regime from 2007-12, the casino industry, especially offshore casinos flourished. 

At the time, late Manohar Parrikar as Opposition leader became the symbol of the anti-casino movement. His promise to driveway casinos from the state capital was one of the reasons which catapulted him to power in 2012. 

Once in power, however, the Parrikar and subsequent BJP-led regimes from 2012-2019 saw bigger, larger casinos park themselves in the Mandovi river, with the Opposition now accusing Parrikar of being in league with the casino industry. 

Currently, there are 17 casinos functioning from the numerous five-star resorts which dot the coastal state. Casinos, as an industry contributes around Rs. 500 crores in direct taxes and licence fees to the state exchequer.