The Maharashtra government has taken its own time to act on a Bombay High Court order instructing it to make a decision on the gambling industry in the state. Gambling is currently illegal in Maharashtra but gambling activist and founder of Glaws.in, Jay Sayta filed a petition in court highlighting the fact that the state did have a ‘Maharashtra Casinos (Control and Tax) Act, 1976’ but it wasn’t being followed.
The court had asked the state government back in 2015 to make a decision as to whether it was going to legalize the industry or if it would continue to ban casinos from operating in the state. State legislators are expected to meet in the next few days and finalize their decision on the casino industry.
In a statement, Sayta said “There are only three options before the state government; one: frame policies and enforce the law, two: study what other states are doing with regards to legalising gambling, or three: repeal the Act through the legislative route.”
The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) is actively campaigning for the legalization of the casino industry and wants the state government to approve the licensing of offshore casinos that will operate off the coast. The MTDC has proposed that the state government take over the operation of these casinos for a couple of years before opening up the industry to foreign and domestic operators.
Should the state government decide to pass a bill legalizing offshore casinos, these casinos will most likely be open only to foreigners and ban locals from entering. Should the concept prove to be successful, those restrictions could be removed in a couple of years and locals will also be allowed to enter the offshore casinos.
The state government appears to be in favour of the idea of legalizing the casino industry as it realizes that it could benefit greatly from the amount of gambling taxes generated by these offshore casinos. However the state government is aware that if it legalizes the casino industry, it will come under a lot of pressure from the opposition party along with religious organizations such as the RSS and Shiva Sena.
The state government has an outstanding debt amounting to Rupees 3.30 lakh crores and is looking for new ways of generating income that could pay off its rising debt. A decision could be made most likely before the end of May 2016.