Bombay High Court directs Maharashtra Government to take the decision within six months.
Nagpur/Mumbai: Gambling in India is a State subject and only States are entitled to formulate laws for gambling activities within their respective states. The Public Gambling Act of 1867 is a Central Law that prohibits running or being in charge of a public gaming house.
The critics of gambling claim that it leads to crime, corruption and money laundering while those in favour of a regulated gambling system in India argue that it can be a huge source of revenue for the State. Sources claimed that Casinos in Goa contributed Rs. 135 crores to the State Revenue in the year 2013.
With the ball in its court, will Maharashtra Government consider legalizing soon? The answer to this question is expected by the end of May 2016, since the Home Department is examining the possibility of notifying the pending Maharashtra Casinos (Control & Tax) Act, 1976.
Highly placed government sources claim that a meeting of all stakeholders, including revenue, tourism and law, has been called by the home department to take the final call on the long-pending issue in the coming week. The government, however, is already running into contempt as the Bombay High Court (HC) had asked it to take the decision within six months, which lapsed on April 9, 2016.
At present, Goa and Sikkim are the only two states that have legalized casinos in India. The High Court on October 9, 2015, directed the Maharashtra Government to take a decision within six months on the implementation of the four-decade-old law that makes it legal to run casinos in the state.
Jay Sayta, a law student, filed the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking action of the government to implement the Maharashtra Casinos (Control and Tax) Act passed by the Assembly and published in the government gazette in July 1976. “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,” said Jay.
As per the petition, the government has not issued a notification implementing the Act so far. While disposing the PIL the court said it was the executive’s decision on when and whether to implement the Act, but asked the government to take its decision within a reasonable time period.
Sayta further claims that under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, it received the governor’s assent in the legislation given on July 22, 1976. In December last year, Satya wrote a letter to Fadnavis requesting him to notify it but there was no response. The Act provides for licensing of casinos, permitting certain types of casino games, taxation of the money paid or agreed to be paid by the participants by way of stakes or bets, etc.
It is further believed that Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), one of the major stake holders in the decision has already given its consent and is in favour of casinos. The corporation is of the view that allowing casinos will give a major boost to the tourism industry, resulting in huge monetary gains for the state government.