Gambling is currently illegal in the state of Maharashtra but the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) is pushing the state government to legalize the industry and license offshore casinos, which will operate on a ship or yacht off the coast. The state government is expected to discuss the issue during the next few days and make a final decision on the matter shortly.
Currently only Goa and Sikkim allow casinos to operate but there are a number of other states such as Maharashtra and Karnataka who are also considering the possibility of legalizing the industry. The MTDC has highlighted the benefits of legalizing the casino industry, suggesting that it would bring in much needed revenue to the state government and also boost tourism.
The MTDC has proposed for the government to run these offshore casinos for the first couple of years as it anticipates opposition from religious and political groups who believe that the gambling industry is a blemish on society. The MTDC believes that the state government will be in a better position to deal with opposition parties and once the industry is accepted, private operators can be invited to be a part of the casino industry.
Should the state government legalize the gambling industry, these offshore casinos will only be open to foreigners and locals will not be allowed. Based on the success of these offshore casinos, the state government could end up lifting the ban on locals, thereby also boosting the growth of the industry in a few years.
Ironically, Maharashtra has had a casino law established already, the ‘Maharashtra Casinos (Control and Tax) Act, 1976’ but the law was never made operational. The Bombay High Court heard a petition from Jay Sayta, who is the founder of GLaws.in and then instructed the state government in 2015 to act quickly and make a decision on the state’s gambling industry.
In a statement, Sayta said “There are only three options before the state government; one: frame policies and enforce the law, two: study what other states are doing with regards to legalising gambling, or three: repeal the Act through the legislative route.”
Should the state government rule in favour of legalizing the casino industry, the BJP, Shiv Sena and RSS parties will oppose the ruling and protest against the casino industry. A senior official who preferred to be unnamed stated that he does not understand why the casino industry should be opposed when the state permits the lottery industry to function.
He believes that the casino and lottery industries operate on the principle of luck and it is incorrect to permit one and ban the other. The office states that Maharashtra has a current debt of 3.30 lakh crores and the money generated from the casino industry can be used to pay off the state debt.