Various organisations, including the influential Meghalaya United Christian Forum (MUCF), on Thursday voiced "apprehension and shock" over the state governments decision to legalise gambling and online betting for tourists coming to the state.
MUCF Secretary Synsharlang Kharshiing said that if gambling, online betting and casinos are legalised, it would have far-reaching consequences on the lives of young and vulnerable men and women and their families, irrespective of community or belief.
Earlier this week, Meghalaya Minister James Sangma clarified that gambling will not be permitted by locals. "No residents of Meghalaya would be allowed to participate or contribute in the proposed legalised gambling and online betting," he had told the media. The state government had so far issued 3 provisional licenses under the new gaming regulation.
Kharshiing 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 leaders and the government functionaries should introspect before jumping with excitement without considering the destruction the decision may cause to the present and future generations," the MUCF said in a statement. Few other local organisations are also against the decision and want the state government to reconsider it.
Coming to online games, the new Meghalaya law permits games to be played through intranet (terminals) which cannot traverse outside the State of Meghalaya. This is similar to the system currently offered in Sikkim. Only persons above 18 are allowed to play and operators cannot accept any payment above INR 25,000 in cash.
A recent report by the U.K. India Business Council (UKIBC) found Meghalaya to be the most gaming-friendly State in India. The index measures the extent to which each State has legalised gaming and betting based on their stance on seven different games – lottery, horse racing, sports betting, poker, rummy, casino and fantasy sports. Meghalaya scored 92.85 (on a scale of 0 to 100 where 100 is fully legalised) with licences applicable in all seven games.