Maharashtra is reported to be at the threshold of legalizing the gambling industry. According to news reports, the Maharashtra Government is deliberating on the long-forgotten Maharashtra Casinos (Control and Tax) Act, 1976, which although passed much earlier had not been implemented.
The pending 40-year old Maharashtra Casinos (Control and Tax) Act allows casino operations in the state. It supersedes the Bombay Prevention of Gambling Act enacted in 1887 that banned all gambling, except lotteries and horse races. The law was passed by the Legislative Assembly and published in the government gazette in July, 1976, but hasn’t been notified since. It is speculated that the decree of Emergency in India at that point in time disrupted its notification process.
The issue has come to fore recently due to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed in the High Court by law student Jay Sayta in 2015. In the PIL, Sayta has requested the court to legalise the act and allow individuals to engage in legitimate gambling within the state. The High Court has asked the government to respond as to whether it was going to legalize casinos within the state.
In a statement, Sayta said, “The Maharashtra Casinos (Control and Tax) Act, 1976, is a landmark legislation, which is likely to earn the government handsome revenue considering the gambling market in India is estimated to be $60 billion. By not notifying this, the State government has carried out a constitutional fraud. If they implement it they are doomed, if they don’t then also they are in trouble. It is about time they notified this Act.”
Although no formal response has come from the government, sources in the home department have said that serious deliberations are underway on its implementation. The state government has been studying gaming, casino laws and taxation regulations in Goa and Sikkim, the only states in India that allow casinos operations currently. The chairman of Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation, Parag Jain has expressed his support, saying that casinos would have a positive impact on tourism. The Chief Minister is also said to have issued a directive to speed up the notification process.
There are reports of a meeting that is scheduled to take place before the end of January 2016 that involves all the key decision makers involved in the process. Ministers from the law, tourism, home, and revenue departments will meet to discuss the possibility of legalizing gambling in the state and will make a decision in the coming weeks.