Can’t debar casinos as promoters have invested: Goa minister

Panaji, Oct 10 (IANS) Rejecting demands made by the Congress to debar casinos from the Mandovi river off the capital, Goa’s Ports Minister Michael Lobo on Thursday said that the government cannot ask the casinos to shut down on account of the investments made by many promoters in the coastal state.

Lobo, who was addressing a function organised to mark the launch of an oil-spill containment vessel, also said, that Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had confided in his Cabinet colleagues that mining in the state could resume by December this year.

“And all of a sudden we (offshore casinos) cannot ask them to leave. We have to give them time to leave. The investment has been done in Goa, whether the person is from Mumbai or Delhi or anyone. When the government has given them a licence legally, you cannot tell them overnight you pack and go. You cannot trouble them,” Lobo said, blaming the Congress-led coalition government for allowing offshore casinos to set shop in the river in 2007.

Opposition, civil society groups as well as Panaji MLA Atanasio Monserrate who belongs to the BJP, have demanded ouster of the five offshore casinos parked off Panaji.

Interestingly, when the BJP was in the opposition, the party had vehemently opposed the casino industry, promising to ban casino gambling in the state, if voted to power.

Lobo also said that Sawant had assured his Cabinet that mining, which has been banned by the Supreme Court since 2018, would resume by December.

“Amit Shah, our national president and Home Minister of India has taken personal interest (in the mining issue)… Our Chief Minister and Chief Secretary are repeatedly going to Delhi (to resolve the mining deadlock) and the next tentative date we have got is December. We will find a tentative solution and the mining issue will be resolved,” Lobo said.

At its peak in 2011, mining activity accounted for nearly 30 per cent of the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The BJP-led coalition government is under pressure to restart the mining industry in Goa, which has been banned for the second time in the last seven years, following revelation of gross irregularities in the sector. Shah currently heads a Group of Ministers (GoMs) which are deliberating over pan-India mining issues, as well as the Goa ban.

–IANS

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