Meghalaya to Legalize Online and Offline Gambling For All Tourists
The northeast Indian state of Meghalaya has planned to legalize both online and offline gambling for visitors to boost its tax revenues. Plans include adding new globalized forms of legalized gambling to the state’s indigenous archery-betting sport called Teer. According to the province’s Law and Taxation Minister James P.K. Sangma, the developments will create more employment opportunities and support the local tourism industry. However, the operations will only be open to tourists and not to the citizens of Meghalaya.
‘Tourist-Only’ Gambling Might Pacify Conservatives
The move to legalize iGaming will make Meghalaya the third north-eastern state to do so after Sikkim and Nagaland. Meghalaya was also one of the first Indian states to legalize archery-based gambling. The move to limit gambling to tourists is perceived as the government’s attempt to pacify the opposition from conservative sections who believe gambling to be a social evil.
The state’s recent Gaming Act will enable its government to issue licenses to online and offline operators of skill-based and chance-based games. The licenses will be awarded under the Regulation of Gaming Rules, 2021.
The process for legalizing gambling operations in Meghalaya had begun in February 2021 after Sangma met representatives of the U.K. India Business Council (UKIBC) to consult them about the state’s gaming and sports betting scenario. As a result, the Meghalaya Prevention of Gambling Act, 1970 was nullified, clearing the way for the process.
Deemed as the most gaming-friendly Indian state according to the UKIBC’s Gaming Industry Index, Meghalaya scored 92.85 out of 100 for licensing all the seven games listed in the index, including fantasy sports, sports betting, horse racing, poker, casino, rummy, and lottery.
Sangma-UKBIC Meet Discussed Strategy to Increase Teer Profits
Played under the aegis of the Meghalaya Regulation of the Game of Arrow Shooting and the Sale of Teer Tickets Act, 2018, ‘Shillong Teer’ is an indigenous archery-based lottery. It is conducted by The Khasi Hills Archery Sport Association (KHASA). In ‘Shillong Teer’, local archers shoot several arrows targeting a haystack in under 10 minutes, while punters bet on the last two digits of the number of arrows on the target. Gamblers can place their wagers in any of the 1,500 legal Teer counters across Meghalaya.
Legalized forty years before Meghalaya began to consider legalizing more gaming operations; Teer has been a globally-accepted, profitable betting venture. It was reported to have generated revenue of about 1.1 crores during 2014-15 and almost 2 crores in 2018-19. The final push came from Sangma’s meeting with the UKBIC representatives and other English businesses that discussed how to increase the sport’s profitability.
Despite the popularity of Shillong Teer, the Voice of the People Party (VPP), a political outfit, has opposed the move to legalize gambling in Meghalaya. Former legislator and VPP president Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit deemed the state government’s decision unacceptable due to the ill-gotten reputation of gambling in Meghalaya. Basaiawmoit suggested the state government invest in upcoming start-up ventures instead of casinos.
Goa Submits Final Draft of Casino Rules to C.M.
While Meghalaya is advancing with its plans to expand legal gaming operations, Goa continues to lead the way when it comes to gambling legislation. Goa is currently the only state in India that has full-fledged offshore and online gambling operations. Other states like Meghalaya are taking cues from Goa and moving forward with their own gambling regulations.
Goa has pushed forward with a proposal to establish a Gaming Commissioner to supervise local casinos but had no official rules to regulate the duties of the Gaming Commissioner. Recently, the state’s Home Department has submitted the final draft of the official rules to streamline casino operations to Chief Minister (C.M.) Pramod Sawant. The rules might be an enormous leap for Goa’s local gambling and tourism industry.
Apart from laying down regulatory standards for the state’s casinos, the official rules will also define the sphere of the Gaming Commissioner’s duties. If the final draft is approved, the official will be able to assert control over Goa’s six offshore casinos. He will also oversee matters like their licensing, issuing entry tickets to visitors, the games offered in those outlets, tax collection, and ordering a shutdown in case of any infringements.
Despite the hopeful scenario, the future of the local populace is still unclear, given the state government-issued ban on their entry into casino outlets. The prohibition dated 1 February 2019 is yet to be executed since casino operators have challenged the directive in the Bombay High Court. We will bring you more information on the proposed gaming regulation and when the Goa Gaming Commissioner has an approved set of gaming regulatory responsibilities.