Goa casino operators form pressure group

May 6th, 2009 - 2:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Panaji, May 6 (IANS) Casino operators in Goa have decided to collectively stave off the sustained pressure heaped on them by civil society groups and political parties, who want offshore casino vessels to sail away from the state.
John Snowball, spokesperson for the newly formed Association of Offshore Casino Operators (AOCO), said the recent protests against the casinos were only “political noises” made before the elections.

“Our association will aim to educate people and the government about the casino industry. We deal a lot with the government. There is little point in going ahead individually. A united move is needed. We need to go ahead with a single voice,” Snowball, who runs one of Goa’s largest offshore casino vessels, the Maharaja, told IANS.

The AOCO would also look at clearing several misconceptions that have crept in over a period of time, not just in Goa but across the globe.

“The issues raised by the people objecting to casinos here are similar to those across the world. They are not unique to Goa. They need to understand that casinos have no connection with drugs. There is also no co-relation between casinos and crime,” said Snowball.

AOCO is opposing the government’s plan to relocate the offshore vessels from the Mandovi river, where they are currently parked, to the Aguada bay a couple of nautical miles away.

“We have invested millions of dollars after envisioning that the casinos would be parked in the Mandovi river, which is easily accessible and has a safe parking bay,” Snowball said, adding that moving to the Aguada bay would virtually kill the industry.

“The sea there is unsafe and it is a logistical nightmare for us to shift operations to the bay, which is far from the city,” Snowball said.

At present, six offshore casinos are parked in the Mandovi river and one more casino is expected to arrive and begin operations later this year.

The casinos have faced stiff opposition from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and civil society groups that have demanded that the government order the vessels out of the state.

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