Goa casino operators move court after relocation orders (Lead)

March 13th, 2009 - 10:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Panaji, March 13 (IANS) Another casino company moved court Friday seeking relief a day after Panaji bench of the Bombay High Court directed the Goa government to freeze its directive to offshore casino operators to move outside the city limits and drop anchor in a nearby bay.
Goa Coastal Resorts and Recreation Pvt Ltd (GCRRL), the company which owns and operates Pride of Goa, one of the larger offshore casino vessels, has said that the cabinet decision to move the casinos from the Mandovi to the Aguada bay, some 3 km away, was in contravention to the licences issued to them by the authorities.

The petition points out that the licence issued to it by the Shipping Corporation of India specifically states that “the vessel would be operating in and around the Mandovi river”.

“If this is what the licence issued to us states then we do not see how the government can ask us to ply outside this area,” a GCRRL spokesperson told reporters here.

The GCRRL in its petition also said that moving the casino operations would not only result in loss of revenue but also render the insurance policy, which covers the ship and the passengers, ineffective.

The court Thursday stayed the state cabinet’s decision after another operator Hotel Leela Ventures Limited filed a petition.

State advocate general Subodh Kantak had said that the presence of casinos in the Mandovi river was proving to be an impediment to the smooth flow of ferry and barge traffic in the river and increased the risk of accidents.

The high court asked the Shipping Corporation of India to verify whether the casino operator had all its documentation in order.

The presence of six offshore casinos anchored and operational in the Mandovi river off Panaji has been the bone of contention between the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the ruling Congress-led coalition government for several months now.

The BJP, which has alleged massive corruption in the issuing of licences and clearances to the casino operators, has been insisting that the casinos be moved out into the sea to avoid congestion in the Mandovi river.

The Goa State Pollution Control Board has also issued notices to the operators, who have been accused of discharging untreated sewage into the river.

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