Goa’s Six Floating Casinos Become Pawns

An increasingly vocal battle between state-level legislators and their local counterparts, has left the six floating casinos in the Indian state of Goa to become a pawn.

This last week, the political conflict over the fate of Goa’s floating casinos on the Mandovi River ramped up a notch after the City of Panaji Corporation (CCP) voted unanimously against renewing trading licenses for casinos when they expire at the end of March 2020.

The dilemma is that state officials still have an alternative place to call home for these casinos, whether it be permanent or a more temporary mooring. Neighbouring Aguada Bay has previously been proposed as a stopgap solution until a newly designated land-based gaming area can be opened at Mopa in the northern part of the state’s in-development international airport.

Following the vote on Monday, Ports Minister Michael Lobo appealed to the CCP to rethink its stance, but the Times of India quoted Panaji Mayor Uday Madkaikar saying that “there is no question of reconsidering the decision of the CCP.” Madkaikar added that the state still has almost six months to move the casinos, but the clock was ticking.

Lobo said on Wednesday that the state had designated a permanent mooring spot for one casino in Aguada Bay without either naming the casino operator or the exact location of their new home. On Thursday Lobo was saying two casinos could be ready to move within eight days, but also indicated that the other four would not go anytime early.

Lobo noted that construction at Mopa airport was currently halted and that only after this project resumes could the government “start talking about relocating[ casinos] there.” But Lobo added that the airport might not be operational for another “two years or two and a half years” and that the plan to move the floating casinos to dry land would take “a period of four years, five years, six years.”

On Thursday, Lobo pushed back both against the CCP’s edict and the opposition parties’ demands by claiming that the government couldn’t order[ casino operators] to leave. He said they needed to give them time to quit, as operators made investments in good faith and when the government legally gives them a permit, you can’t expect them to pack up and go with immediate affect.