Maharashtra is laying grounds to enforce the Maharashtra Casinos (Control & Tax) Act, 1976, a 40-year old landmark and farsighted legislation as per a report in the Hindu today. 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.
Following a petition by Jay Sayta, this website’s founder, challenging the government delay, the Bombay High Court had in October 2015 directed the government to take a stand on the issue within six months. A government proposal to promote Matheran as a casino destination has been gathering dust since the past few years. The High Court has asked the state government to take a decision on four occasions since February 2015, when the PIL was filed to take a reasoned decision.
“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 Sayta.
Sources in the home department said a directive from the Chief Minister has been given to speed up the notification process. Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), whose managing director Parag Jain has 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 Sayta.