The state of Meghalaya, in northeast India, could potentially become a gambling destination going forward. The state government is preparing the groundwork to convert the region into a hub of legalized gambling, online gaming and sports betting, reports The Shillong Times.
The plans follow the passage in February 2021 of the Meghalaya Regulation of Gaming Ordinance, which made gambling activities within the state legal by nullifying the Meghalaya Prevention of Gambling Act of 1970. The state —the third in Northeast India after Sikkim and Nagaland to make iGaming and gambling legal— now intends to leverage this opportunity.
Law and Taxation Minister James PK Sangma has met with representatives of the UK India Business Council (UKIBC) and several UK-based businesses to discuss the state’s iGaming and sports betting landscape. This led to the launch of a UKIBC industry report, titled Gaming for Growth - India’s Sports and Gaming Market Potential, says the cited source.
According to the UKIBC, Meghalaya is already a strong candidate to become a gaming hub: its Gaming Industry Index defines the state as “the most gaming-friendly” in India. The index, which measures the extent to which states have legalized every form of gaming -lottery, horse racing, sports betting, poker, rummy, casino, fantasy sports-, scored Meghalaya 92.85 out of 100.
The UKIBC suggests in its report that a clear approach to regulation would attract foreign direct investment (FDI), create jobs, drive growth, increase tax revenue in the state, and support the tourism sector. It also proposes recommendations for India to capitalize on the growing opportunities that the gaming industry offers.
“We applaud the government of Meghalaya on its forward-thinking approach to the license of games of chance in the state, which will help to contribute greater revenues and bring jobs to the state,” commented UKIBC’s managing director, Kevin McCole.
The expert further remarked that a regulated market provides safeguards and protection for players, which are not available “in the unregulated sector.” Additionally, he predicted that both the unregulated and regulated gaming industries in India will continue to grow significantly.
“There are therefore strong reasons to work towards this growth taking place under regulations,” he continued. “To do so, we recommend the government of India adopts the Law Commission’s 2018 recommendation that sports betting be regulated. Not least because it will attract FDI, stimulate domestic investment, create jobs, generate government revenue, and enable responsible playing.”
The gaming industry in India has experienced growth as of late, including a dramatic rise in online gaming during the pandemic. This has led to conversations on how to tackle the issue: currently, regulation greatly varies from state to state, while the Indian industry at large splits gaming into two categories, “games of skill” and “games of chance.”
While states like Meghalaya have moved to regulate the sector, others like Karnataka have tried to ban it, proving the lack of a uniform framework across the country. Currently, Meghalaya is among a chosen few with legislation in place that covers not both skill-based and chance games.
“We thought it prudent to regulate rather than totally prohibit so that we give space to all the stakeholders with good intentions to come together and grow together and at the same time act against the dubious players who are taking our people for a ride,” Sarika Aggarwal Synrem, Government of Meghalaya, had said in regards to the decision, according to Medianama.