The picturesque north-eastern state of Meghalaya has drawn up big plans to bring in casinos and online gambling and gaming for tourists to rake in much-needed revenues, top officials said.
Taxation Minister James PK Sangma said the state government has come up with the Gaming Act following which the Gaming Rules 2021 will facilitate issuing of licenses to operators to conduct games of skill and chance both in online and offline version.
As we have seen in many states, this venture has positive impacts not just in terms of GST revenues but also in terms of generating a lot of employment opportunities from the vibrant tourism industry, Sangma told PTI.
The move to get into gaming in a big way comes some forty years after archery-based betting was first legalized in Meghalaya, raking in big revenue to the state’s exchequer
The Khasi Hills Archery Sport Association conducts the well-known ‘Shillong Teer’, an archery-based lottery. A group of 12 archery clubs are part of the association where every day, 50 archers shoot 30 arrows each at 3:45 pm and 20 arrows in the second round at 4:45 pm.
Bettors predict the last two digits of the total number of arrows that hit the target and they can place their bets in 1500 legalised teer counters across the state.
An official of the taxation department said legal betting through Shillong Teer’ generated Rs 1.1 crore revenue during 2014-15 and nearly 2 crore in 2018-19.
However, this time round the state will allow only tourists and visitors to participate in these gaming and betting counters after providing valid proofs of being travellers from other states or countries.
While Meghalaya was one of the first states to legalize archery-based gambling, it will now become the third state in the northeast to legalize gambling – both online and off-line. Sikkim and Nagaland have also allowed regulated gaming and betting businesses.
Discussions on how to make Shillong Teer’ more profitable and widely accepted globally have taken place since 2012-13 onwards but the final push came when the Taxation Minister met representatives of the UK India Business Council and other business houses to discuss the possibilities.
The UKIBC in its report to the state government, said the state is the most gaming-friendly state in India and concluded that lottery, poker, rummy, casino and fantasy sports would do well here.
The new rules on gaming and betting, however, did not go well with everyone in the state.
Newly formed political outfit, the Voice of the People said that most Meghalayans have always considered any form of gambling as a social evil, and protested the move to allow opening up of casinos and gaming bars.
Former legislator and VPP president Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit said, The aim of the state government to open casinos in the state and make the state famous for its gambling cannot be accepted as we all know the Meghalaya people have never accepted such games of chance.
Basaiawmoit instead suggested the state look at encouraging start-ups.
Possibly to stem opposition from conservatives in the state the state government has decreed that the rules will allow only tourists to play big in the casinos it hopes to attract to the state.