The Meghalaya government has decided to halt the move to set up casinos in the state. However, Chief Minister Conrad Sangma has refused to repeal the Meghalaya Regulation of Gaming Act and Rules, which was passed last year.
Talking to reporters, CM Sangma on Thursday said the processes that happened before the order came will be there, but the state government has decided not to move any further in this regard.
“We have given instruction to stop any further process to happen, but the processes that happen before that order was given, those processes are there, hence the decision that we have taken and the communication that we have made to everybody is we are not going to move any further than where we are,” Sangma said.
The announcement came following pressure from Church leaders, pressure groups and others.
About the provisional licence that was granted to three parties, Sangma said, “Before the debate started and before we met the NGOs and the Church leaders, certain processes have already taken place and those are the process that was mentioned in the House that day that happened to give the three provisional licences. (But) provisional means it’s a temporary licence that was given with the condition that within six months or eight months the operations have to start.”
The government granted the temporary licences to three firms for operating on-premises casinos to promote niche tourism in the state. Taxation Minister James P K Sangma had said that stiff competition in the tourism sector in the Northeast prompted the government to start the on-premises casinos.
Stating that everything was put to a halt after a discussion with Church leaders and NGOs, the chief minister clarified that the government has not misguided anybody. “…those provisional licences are going to automatically lapse after a certain time is gone,” he added.
Sangma also clarified that the government has no intention to repeal the Meghalaya Regulation of Gaming Act and Rules 2021.
“There will be certain areas which we will be examining but as I said as of now the Act is in place. The question of repealing the Act doesn’t arise. We have concerns about online gaming in terms of jackpot parlours, they need to be regulated, they have not been regulated for the last 25 years,” the CM said.
“So, therefore, even if it requires that we wait for some time to regulate those also, we can do that because for the last 25 years we have not (regulated that). But it was important to frame a law and (put) rules in place so that regulation of this kind of thing can happen whether online or offline,” he added.
The move to open on-premises casinos faced a lot of opposition from religious bodies and other groups. Taxation Minister James P K Sangma said gaming in all its forms had been in practice for years in Meghalaya. Archery-based betting was legalised in Meghalaya in 1982.
(With PTI inputs)
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