Sikkim is one of the three states in India to have legalized gambling and sports betting and gaming operators are in the process of preparing to launch operations that will cater to the influx of gamblers that are expected visit Sikkim purely to engage in gambling related activities. A number of tour operators have already begun promoting Sikkim as being the ‘Las Vegas of India’.
Since this is the first time that online gambling services will be provided in Sikkim, gambling operators are running into a number of challenges. One of the biggest challenges they faced was due to the IT Act of 2000 which prevents Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from permitting any kind of gambling content to be hosted. So even though the state government rolled out the ‘Online Gaming Regulation Amendment Bill’, ISP providers were instruction by the Central Government to make use of geo-location services and ensure that gambling related content was only provided to users who were physically located in Sikkim.
The Sikkim government has currently licensed only four providers to operate in the state. They are Golden Gaming International, Sugal & Damani Group, Essel Group’s Playwin and Future Gaming Group who are looking to test the waters by experimenting with a gaming shop model that will allow gamblers to visit their shops and place their bets online. All four gaming operators are looking to start small and limit their investments because they want to see how the market responds.
Gambling operators admit that they would have invested more heavily and scaled operators had they been permitted to provide online gambling services to other states as well. Due to the restrictions imposed by ISP’s, these gambling establishments are looking to use an intranet model initially to ensure that their customers have a seamless gaming experience and develop a loyalty for the brand.
In a statement, Kamlesh Vijay, CEO of Sugal & Damani said “It may take some time before all licence-holders start their operations in full swing. We’re looking at options to roll out the business in a cost-effective manner. If other states open their doors to gaming businesses — or if gaming or sports betting is legalised across the country — we’ll be the first ones to grab that opportunity”.
Golden Gaming International is in the process of opening out a 6,000 square foot gaming zone in Gangtok and plans to offer virtual horse racing and kino games to clients before rolling out more popular games like cricket, tennis and soccer in February 2016.