Panaji, Former Goa RSS chief Subhash Velingkar has accused the BJP-led coalition government of being in cahoots with the casino industry and demanded a white paper on the cost-benefit ratio of casino gambling to the coastal state.
In a list of publicly articulated questions to Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, Velingkar on Monday also demanded a definite date by which offshore casinos would be moved outside the state capital.
“Successive BJP governments in Goa have cheated the people vis-a-vis its assurances that the casino industry in Goa would be shut down,” Velingkar, who now heads the regional political party, the Goa Suraksha Manch, told the media here.
“In the 2012 Assembly elections, the BJP made opposition to casinos as one of their key poll issues. When they came to power, the party threw the issue into the dustbin. (Late Chief Minister Manohar) Parrikar announced that by 2015, the casinos would be driven out of the Mandovi. People thought he would do it, but they were cheated once again because the casinos are still here,” he added.
The former Goa Sanghachalak, who was ousted from the position a few years ago because of his opposition to Parrikar’s policies, also demanded answers from Sawant on four key issues.
“The Chief Minister needs to reply to our four questions. Why has no Gaming Commission been appointed for seven years to regulate gambling, by which date will the casinos be moved out of the Mandovi river, and where will they be relocated eventually,” Velingkar said.
Both Congress as well as the BJP regimes for nearly two decades have been promising to set up a Gaming Commission to standardise norms for casino gambling, which is currently unregulated and varies from one casino operation to another.
Goa’s numerous five starred hotels are home to nearly a dozen onshore casinos and six offshore casinos, which are exclusively located in the Mandovi river off Panaji.
Hundreds of thousands of tourists and locals patronise the six offshore and nearly a dozen onshore casinos operating in Goa.
While the BJP was opposed to the casino industry when it was in the opposition, Sawant now claims, that the casino industry is integral to Goa’s tourism prospects and said that shutting it down might not be feasible.