Panaji: Goa Ports Minister Michael Lobo has said the off-shore casinos should not be shifted out of the Mandovi river here, and suggested that more such vessels be introduced in other rivers of the state.
The minister's comment comes in stark contrast to the stand adopted by the BJP-led state government, which has assured to relocate the off-shore casinos from the Mandovi river in Panaji after opposition from locals.
Lobo, who is also a BJP MLA, justified his statement claiming that the casino industry helps Goa's economy and generates employment.
"I still remember our former chief minister Manohar Parrikar saying that the state is not dependent on the money collected (as taxes) from casinos. But I am saying opposite to it," Lobo told reporters at Mapusa town near here on Tuesday.
He claimed the casino industry is "helping the state treasury". "We get revenue from the casinos after charging fees for annual renewal of their licence. In addition, we also get revenue in the form of GST from them. Every year the renewal fees is levied by departments like Excise, Food and Drugs Administration and others," he said.
Six off-shore casinos are currently operating from the Mandovi river in the state capital.
The minister said every vessel has been employing over 400 people. "It is generating employment for Indians. We need to understand that this industry cannot be just stopped overnight," he said.
"I would say that more casinos should be introduced in other places like the Chapora river (in North Goa) and the Zuari river (in South Goa)," Lobo said.
He, however, noted that MLAs representing constituencies around those rivers have opposed the introduction of casinos, "as people are objecting to it".
"But introducing casinos in these rivers will help revive the economy of the state. Casinos will come in these rivers in years to come. People will realise it is part of the industry. If you want to grow the industry, then you will have to allow it," Lobo said.
He also said that he was not in favour of the plan to shift casinos from the Mandovi river to the upcoming international airport at Mopa in North Goa district.
"Mopa can be a different set up all together, we can have a live gaming zone there. But in my opinion, the casinos should continue in the Mandovi river," he added.