The state of Maharashtra is one of the most popular states in India because at its center is the city of Mumbai known for being the financial hub of India and the Bollywood film industry. The government in Maharashtra is now considering the possibility of legalizing the gambling industry in the state and becoming the fourth state in India to do so.
The Maharashtra Casinos (Control and Tax) Act was passed by the Legislative Assembly back in 1976 but has never really implemented and lawyer Jay Sayata has been battling it out in the courts to ensure that the law is implemented and casinos become legal in Maharashtra.
The Bombay High Court has pulled up the Maharashtra government over their delay to make a decision on the matter and has asked them to identify suitable locations in Maharashtra where casinos can be built. The government has acted on these instructions and have called for a meeting with key stakeholders in the tourism, home, revenue and law departments before the end of January to make a final decision on legalizing casinos in the state.
The home department has also launched a study into the gaming markets of Goa and Sikkim to see how each state government is regulating the gambling industry and what kind of tax reforms they have implemented. Should Maharashtra decide to legalize the casino industry, it will quickly surpass Goa in terms of gross gaming revenues as a Maharashtra has the highest concentration of wealthy Indians.
In a statement, lawyer Jay Sayata said “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. Maharashtra is the den of illegal gambling. If the taxation on gaming is legalised, it could earn good revenue for State.”
An senior office who works in the home department stated that the chief minister of Maharashtra has also put pressure on key stakeholders to speed up the process and a proposal has been put forward suggesting that the locality of Matheran can be developed and turned into a casino destination.
Parag Jain, the managing director of the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) has thrown his support behind the legalization of the casino industry stating that it will have a strong impact on tourism and generated significant revenue for the state.
The senior officer from the home department who preferred to be anonymous also stated that the Maharashtra government is in a tight spot over the legalization of casinos as they have not implemented the 1976 act due to moral grounds and religious extremists, making it a constitutional fraud.