The Maharashtra government was instructed by the Bombay High Court in 2015 to review the Maharashtra Casinos (Control and Tax) act of 1976 and make a decision on permitting offshore gambling in the state within 6 months. That deadline expired on April 9 2016 but the government has still been unable to make a final decision.
Although the Maharashtra Casinos (Control and Tax) act was passed in 1976 it never did become operational and it was brought up in the Bombay High Court only when Jay Sayta filed a petition pushing for the legalization of the casino industry based on the existing law.
On the surface, it appears to be a very straightforward decision for the Maharashtra government as legalizing the casino industry would bring in much needed revenue in the form of gaming taxes for the state and also boost tourism, as these offshore casinos will only permit foreign visitors to gamble. The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) has also highlighted to the government that the legalization of the casino industry would give state tourism a much needed boost.
However, the government has delayed making its decision due to the underlying tensions over the casino industry, which comes from both political and religious parties who view the casino industry as an evil to society. DNA, an Indian news outlet has confirmed that key stakeholders from the tourism, home department, law and revenue departments met last week to discuss the pros and cons of legalizing the casino industry and are expected to make a final decision before the end of May 2016.
Should the Maharashtra government approve the operation of offshore casinos, they will most likely operate from a floating casino off the coast. As of now only Sikkim and Goa allow casinos to operate and should Maharashtra become the third state, it would capture a major portion of India’s $60 billion gambling industry.
In a statement, Sayta said “In view of the RM Lodha committee recommendations, government should allow it at the earliest. It is a good Act as it has lots of safeguards in terms of preventing under-age gambling and addictions. If allowed, it will fetch thousands of crores to the state revenue.”
Whatever decision the Maharashtra government ends up making before the end of this month, it is likely to face criticism. The court is likely to pull the government up for failing to make its decision before the April 9 deadline. If the government rules in favor of legalizing the casino industry, it will face a backlash from the opposition party. If the government decides not to legalize the casino industry, Sayta and casino lobbyists in the state will file a lawsuit taking the government to court once again.