The Maharashtra government is expected to finally make a decision on whether it will legalize the casino industry in the state and allow offshore casinos to operate. Senior government officials in the state government who preferred to be anonymous confirmed that the government will make a final decision on the matter before the end of May 2016.
The government had been instructed by the Bombay High court in 2015 to review the Maharashtra Casinos (Control and Tax) act 1976 which permitted casinos to function but had never become operational during the past forty years. The court heard a petition from Jaya Sayta, a gaming laws activist who demanded that gambling be approved in the state based on the 1976 act.
The court gave the Maharashtra government time till 9th April 2016 to make a decision but that deadline wasn’t met as the government has come under pressure from the opposition party as well as political and religious groups who view the gambling industry as a destructive force to the society.
On the other hand, the government realizes that it can make a significant amount of revenue from legalizing offshore casinos which will operate on yachts off the coast and be open only to foreigners. The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) has also urged the government to approve these offshore casinos as it would encourage tourism in the state and add to the revenue generated.
Goa and Sikkim are the only two states in India who currently allow casinos to operate and should Maharashtra follow in their footsteps; the state would capture a major portion of the $60 billion gambling industry in India. Major stakeholders from the tourism, revenue, law and home department met last week to discuss the issues involved in regulating the offshore casino industry and it now appears that the government is finally ready to announce its decision.
In a statement, Sayta said “In view of the RM Lodha committee recommendations, government should allow it at the earliest. It is a good Act as it has lots of safeguards in terms of preventing under-age gambling and addictions. If allowed, it will fetch thousands of crores to the state revenue.”
Unconfirmed reports state that the government is most likely to approve off-shore casinos since the Maharashtra Casinos (Control and Tax) act already exists. Even if the government approves these offshore casinos, it will most likely be pulled up by the court for violating the 9th of April deadline.