Shillong, May 21 – Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma on Saturday ruled out repealing of the Meghalaya Regulation of Gaming Act, 2021, saying abolishing the act would incur loss of government revenue to the tune of Rs 8-10 crore.
Responding to the demand to repeal the Meghalaya Regulation of Gaming Act, 2021 by the political parties, church and other organisations, who have opposed the government’s move to legalise gambling in the state, Sangma said: “If the act is repealed, then there would be nothing to regulate the gaming.”
The Chief Minister, who is also the convener of the central government constituted Group of Ministers to study possible GST rates on casinos, race courses and online gaming, said that Meghalaya Regulation of Gaming Act, 2021 is vital to regulate the existing gambling parlours, which have been running for the past 25 years in the state.
Saying that jackpot and online gaming parlours have been active in the state for many years, he said that they are not paying tax to the government.
“Since we are a revenue deficit state, we need revenue. Though we are getting a share of taxes from the central government, we have to broaden our areas of tax collection avenues. We would face a huge problem in future if we do not increase our revenue. We need funds for the proposed and ongoing activities for the welfare of the people,” the Chief Minister said.
Various organisations, including the influential Meghalaya United Christian Forum (MUCF), voiced “apprehension and shock” over the state government’s decision to legalise gambling and online betting for tourists coming to the state.
The MUCF in a statement earlier said that online gambling and casinos might generate a lot of revenue for the government but the bigger question is whether people are willing to pay the price and are they ready to bear the repercussions of such an endeavour on the society at large.
The state’s Law and Taxation Minister, James P.K. Sangma had announced recently that the state government is considering introducing casinos and online gambling only for tourists coming to the state to generate revenues.
“No residents of Meghalaya would be allowed to participate or contribute in the proposed legalised gambling and online betting,” he had told the media.
Though for the past 20-25 years, gambling has been going on in the state with traditional archery games being betted upon on a daily basis, the state government doesn’t earn any revenue from this informal betting.