CEC cautions Goa against casinos’ misuse for poll funding

Panaji, Dec 15 (IANS) Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said on Thursday that the Goa Chief Secretary has been asked to ensure that black money is not stashed with the casinos of the state by political parties and funds are not diverted.

There is a “serious concern” about the issue, and the Chief Secretary ahs been asked to keep tabs on the casinos in the state, Zaidi said.

“We conducted a meeting with the state Chief Secretary and the Home Secretary. We have asked them to ensure that casinos are not misused. They should keep tabs on casinos,” Zaidi said.

When asked if there was a need to ban the casinos for the duration of the Model Code of Conduct as and when it is announced, Zaidi said: “We do not need to interfere in their normal day-to-day activities since this is a tourism-oriented place.”

“But we will keep track on activities related to diversion of funds and we have told the Chief Secretary that his machinery should keep tabs on them,” Zaidi added.

The country’s top election official, who chaired a review of the poll preparation in Goa, which is likely to go to polls early next year, also said that political parties in the state had red-flagged that casinos could be misused by vested interests for parking and diversion of money.

“They have given us written representations. We have also had a briefing with the Chief Secretary and we have conveyed our concerns, serious concerns, about the likely misuse of casinos and likely undue haste in finalising schemes without figuring the statutory provisions,” Zaidi said.

“The Chief Secretary has taken note of it and he has assured us that he would look into these representations and will go according to law and procedures,” he added.

Goa has five operational offshore casinos parked in the Mandovi river off Panaji, and nine onshore casinos housed in the numerous five-star resorts in the state’s coastal regions.