State legislators passed a new ordinance last year, formalizing the liberal stance on gaming for money (already seen in the North-east). Local businesses and foreign investors stand by the government in turning Meghalaya into a premier gambling destination.
Shillong Aspires to Become a Gaming Hub
It has been over a year since the state of Meghalaya passed its Regulation of Gaming Ordinance, a groundbreaking piece of legislation designed to put the state on the world’s gambling map. Considered liberal by many Indian standards, the gambling law is actually an updated version of similar legal frameworks set up in several other states across the Union.
Akin to regulations passed in Sikkim and Nagaland in the North East, it is already ahead of Goa’s legal gambling canons, based mostly on brick and mortar business models. Meghalaya is hoping that its modern take on a licensing regime will make it a hub for the online gaming and betting industry.
Quite relevantly, many other states have been looking for more clarity from the Centre on possibly making paid skill gaming and online lottery Delhi accessible to their residents. A related bill has indeed been introduced for consideration in the Lok Sabha but industry experts are unsure of when we might see progress.
For sure, when local governments have taken the initiative in the past, desi players have responded enthusiastically, making government-regulated real money games an instant success. The Kerala lottery is one of the prominent recent examples.
As a further show of being on the right path, Meghalaya’s Law and Taxation Minister welcomed representatives of the UK India Business Council (UKIBC). The business lobby group presented its study on the potential of nationwide licensing for games of chance, “Gaming for Growth – India’s Sports and Gaming Market Potential”.
A Model for Federal Gambling Reform
Meghalaya stands out in UKIBC’s Gaming Industry Index, if only for the fact that it has regulated all land-based and online gaming – from poker and rummy to casinos, sports betting, fantasy sports, horse racing and the lottery. Being “gaming-friendly” will have its spillover effects on regional economic growth, market experts explained, in terms of jobs, tax revenues, service industry opportunities and even tourist influx.
More importantly, investors appreciate the related impact on administrative transparency that lowers corruption, provides stable industry prospects and ensures the integrity of sports and other gaming-related events. Capitalizing on such opportunities had already been recommended by the 2018 Law Commission nationwide study.
The recently proposed Online Gaming (Regulation) Bill might not be able to solve all industry problems and protect the public interest, some legal analysts say. It fails to make a clear distinction between skill levels in games and it also does not draw upon the success of licensing regimes we have seen in the North-East.
But a Central gambling commission which is able to coordinate state policy is already positive news in a sector which has been struggling for domestic recognition amidst global opportunities. While desi tech companies provide the fertile business climate for the online gaming industry, policy makers cannot afford to miss out on the market opportunities which would make India a worldwide force in legitimate gaming and betting.
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