Maharashtra May Turn To Legalized iGaming To Offset Losses
Maharashtra is one of the most important states in India primarily because of the city of Mumbai, which is the financial hub of India and also home to Bollywood – the biggest and most popular film industry in Asia. There are over 100 million Indians who live in Maharashtra.
Maharashtra Lost $8.3 Billion During COVID-19
India, like many other countries in the world, has been in lockdown mode for over 5 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Maharashtra is one of the states that have been hit the most as all of the state’s major industries have reported a significant decline in revenues.
A recent report showed that Maharashtra is estimated to have lost close to $8.3 billion (₹610 billion) between March and August 2020. The state government is struggling to get things up and running again, as the COVID-19 situation is still not fully under control.
Given that Maharashtra will take a lot more time to get back to business as usual, the state government is expecting more losses as we approach the end of 2020. State legislators are brainstorming to find new ways to generate revenue and fill the hole in the state budget.
Legislators Contemplating Legalized iGaming
Maharashtra has been against the idea of legalized online gambling for many years. Gambling proponents have approached the state government on multiple occasions to see if they can get the state to change its stance and legalize iGaming.
Gambling is banned throughout India because it is looked down upon by society. Only a select few states, namely Goa, Sikkim, and Daman, have legalized gambling. However, each state has the right to decide whether they want to ban gambling or have a legalized industry as per the constitution.
Maharashtra is now being forced to consider all of its options to generate revenue, and online gambling sits high up on the list of options. State legislators are reportedly engaged in serious discussions to see if they can proceed with a legalized gambling market.
Past Attempts Have Met With Failure
It is important to point out that this is not the first time that Maharashtra has pushed forward to legalize gambling in the state. In 2003, business magnate Vikram Mittal from the Lotelier Group pushed the government to grant them a casino license but nothing came of it due to pressure from political and religious groups.
The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) was backed by a few government bodies in 2012 and tried to get approval from the government to open casinos in Matheran – a popular hill-station. However, the MTDC suddenly decided to revoke its proposal and claimed ecological concerns prevented it from moving forward. There were reports that the proposal did not receive the necessary support required from the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF).
Financial Pressures Could Work For iGaming Legalization
This time around, the circumstances and push for legalized gambling are completely different. For one, the main push is not towards licensing brick & mortar casinos but to license new online casinos. The other difference is that the circumstances are completely different, as Maharashtra is going through a very difficult economic phase. The state government needs to all the revenues it can get.
Legalizing online gambling will allow the state government to collect iGaming licensing fees, create employment opportunities, and bring in millions of rupees in online gaming taxes. A legalized gambling market will also offer better protection to residents in Maharashtra, as some of them are currently playing at unlicensed sites.
State legislators have apparently commissioned a task force who are studying different gambling markets to work out the pros and cons and see how feasible it will be for Maharashtra to run a legalized iGaming market.
A state government official who preferred to be anonymous said that the government is serious this time around about moving forward with legalized iGaming but said it was too soon to conclude any outcome because the discussions were currently in the initial stages. Several hurdles needed to be addressed, especially from the opposition party and religious groups.
State Horse Racing Industry Also Putting Pressure
The Maharashtra horse racing industry has also been putting pressure on the state government to legalize online bets for the horse racing industry. Horse racing clubs have been unable to hold races, and even when they get permission to hold races, it will have to be in front of empty seats.
Racing clubs want the government to permit them to offer online horse racing bets to their punters as it is the only way for the state’s horse racing industry to survive.
The state government will have to decide on legalizing iGaming sooner or later.