Licences for casinos in Meghalaya opposed

Taxation Minister James P. K. Sangma said temporary licenses have been issued to three individuals.

September 14, 2022 03:47 pm | Updated 03:47 pm IST - GUWAHATI

James P. K. Sangma. File 

James P. K. Sangma. File  | Photo Credit: Photo: Twitter/@JamesSangma1

Pressure groups in Meghalaya have opposed the issuance of licences to operate casinos in the State.

Meghalaya Taxation Minister James P. K. Sangma told the 60-member Assembly on September 12 that temporary licences have been issued to three applicants.

He justified the permits by saying that Meghalaya needed to provide additional attractions for tourists because of the stiff competition from the other north-eastern States that have a similar topography besides offering historical- and archaeological sites.

The argument has not amused the Joint Action Committee Against Casino (JACAC) in the State’s Ri-Bhoi district, which borders Assam. The government plans the casinos along the border so that people from outside the State can wager and return if they have no plans for vacation in Meghalaya.

“The government’s decision has saddened us besides contradicting Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma’s assurance to the JACAC that no licenses would be issued to run casinos,” the Committee’s Secretary, Ferdynald Kharkamni said.

He also said people in Meghalaya are not acquainted with casino-type gambling unlike Sikkim and Goa.

Meghalaya is accustomed to ‘teer’, a traditional form of gambling based on archery. This entails predicting the number of arrows, shot by a team of archers from a semi-circular line, that will hit a target made of hay.  

The Hynniewtrep Youth Council, an organisation representing the Khasi tribal people, slammed the coalition government in the State for introducing the Meghalaya Regulation of Gaming Act, 2021, to pave the way for casinos.

“We have scheduled a public meeting in Nongpoh (headquarters of Ri-Bhoi district) on September 23 to decide on the further course of action. The five MLAs of the district, heads of traditional bodies, church leaders, teachers and students will be invited for the meeting,” Mr. Kharkamni said.

A government spokesperson said the Gaming Act was introduced to regulate gambling parlours that have been operating for years in the State.

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