State may notify Maharashtra Casinos Act

Chief Minister directs officials to speed up process

Updated - September 22, 2016 11:30 pm IST

Published - January 10, 2016 12:00 am IST - Mumbai:

The government has not made an announcement fearing adverse public reactions.

The government has not made an announcement fearing adverse public reactions.

Maharashtra is laying grounds for enforcing a decade-old Act to legalise casinos in Maharashtra. The State home department is studying gaming and casino laws applicable in Goa and Sikkim, including taxation issues involved, before a final deliberation to decide on notifying the pending Maharashtra Casinos (Control & Tax) Act, 1976. A meeting of all stakeholders including law, tourism, home, and revenue departments is being called end of this month to reach a decision on legalising casinos by notifying the act, officials said.

The Maharashtra Casinos (Control and Tax) Act was passed by the Legislative Assembly and published in the government gazette in July, 1976, but hasn’t been notified since.

Following a petition challenging the government delay, the Bombay High Court had directed the government to not only notify the pending legislation but also identify locations across the state, which could be developed as casino hotspots.

A government proposal to promote Matheran as a casino destination has since been gathering dust.

“The Maharashtra Casinos (Control and Tax) Act, 1976, is a landmark legislation, which is likely to earn the government a handsome revenue considering the gambling market in India is estimated to be $60 billion,” said lawyer Jay Sayata, who has filed a PIL on the issue of pending casino legislation in the High Court.

“Maharashtra is the den of illegal gambling. If the taxation on gaming is legalised, it could earn good revenue for State.” Sources in the home department said a directive from the Chief Minister has been given to speed up the notification process.

A suo motu cognisance of the PIL was taken by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), whose managing director Parag Jain has now written a letter to the home department stating that allowing casinos would have a positive impact on tourism and therefore the proposal should be considered favourably.

A senior officer of the home department, said, “However, given that this is a sensitive issue and since the government fears adverse publicity, we have neither made a public announcement or replied to any assembly queries. A decision on casinos in Maharashtra is expected very soon.”

It is expected that legalising betting could help the State control betting in sports and other activities, which is currently governed by the archaic Maharashtra Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887.

“By not notifying this, the State government has carried out a constitutional fraud. It highlights the moral inhibitions of this government. 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,” said Sayata.

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