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Goa casinos are back in business, but this long-awaited return has not come without resistance. In what comes as a shot in the arm for the fund-crunched casino operators is the official go-ahead by the Corporation of City of Panaji (CCP) to renew the trade licenses for the six offshore casinos operating from River Mandovi.
The CCP had granted its in-principle approval for this last week, but the CCP council still had to formally ratify the decision in a Council meeting.
The meeting held on Wednesday wasn’t without the usual political sparks on allowing casinos to continue operating in Goa. But with Mayor Uday Madkaikar and Commissioner Sanjit Rodrigues firm in their decision, the CCP will be going ahead with the renewal of the licenses, allowing the casino operators to breathe easy and focus on getting their business back on track.
CCP Council Meeting
The CCP Council meeting to discuss the renewal of the casino trade licenses on November 11 was dragged by noisy protests from weighty political representatives like former Mayor Surendra Furtado, Councilors Menino D’Cruz, and Rupesh Halaranka, with all of them crying foul on the decision.
However, a majority of the Council supported the move. Mayor Uday Madkaikar and Commissioner Sanjit Rodrigues’ also clearly affirmed that in line with CM Pramod Sawant’s decision to support the casino sector, the operators would be granted permission to renew their trade licenses.
Mayor Madkaikar justified the move by saying that the government has already allowed casinos to resume operations, and the CCP would likely face legal hurdles if it holds up the renewal of the trade licenses. He also pointed out that the CCPhas been approached by several restaurants, hotel owners, and taxi operators whose livelihood depends on the casino business.
CCP Approval – Finally Coming Around
Businesses in Goa had come to a near standstill for months after the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Casinos were among the last of the commercial setups allowed to reopen, and since November 1, most of them have resumed operations, albeit with a reduced 50% capacity and other safeguards in place.
The reopening news came with the government’s announcement to waive off the casino license fee arrears for April to October 2020 while permitting casinos to pay the rest on a monthly pro-rata basis. This would have saved the operators ₹277.08 Crores. Still, the announcement was quickly rescinded by CM Pramod Sawant amidst rising opposition, clarifying that the waiver was temporary and only to allow casinos to get back in business.
The CCP has shifted its stance on this issue several times in the last year. Last August, the CCP had resolved not to renew the trade license of any of the offshore casinos. Mayor Uday Madkaikar softened his earlier stance in March, indicating that casino license renewal applications have been kept on hold during the lockdown, and a decision would be taken later. In August, Madkaikar accused the media of misquoting him and firmly re-iterated CCP’s stance of not granting the renewal.
With the CCP now making its decision official, it looks like the state government is finally providing the casino sector the support it urgently deserves.