Maharashtra government lays ground to notify Casinos Act, receives two proposals vouching Rs. 1000+ crore tax revenues

18 February 2016

The Maharashtra government is considering implementation of the Maharashtra Casinos (Control & Tax) Act, 1976 (Act No. XXXI of 1976), a four-decade old legislation that was put in the cold storage even though it was passed by the legislative assembly and approved by the Governor.

The Bombay High Court in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by lawyer Jay Sayta (then a law student) had on several occasions directed the government to holistically look into the issue and decide in a time-bound manner on implementation of the decades-old law. In its latest order dated 9th October 2015, the High Court had given the state government six months time to decide on implementation of the law while giving an option to Sayta to file a fresh petition in case he is dissatisifed with the efforts of the state government.

Sol Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. is one of the companies which has applied to the Chief Minister for a license under the casinos legislation for operating a casino at a suitable spot identified by the state government.

Manish Kamani, Director of Sol Entertainment says, “Our company has experience of running casinos in Goa and we strongly believe that if the state government notifies the Casinos Act, it will give them thousands of crores of revenues, prevent illegal activities, bolster tourism and generate employment for unemployed youth. Allowing fair and licensed gaming is a win-win situation for all stakeholders.”

Jay Sayta, the petitioner who prompted the government to look into the matter said, “Through media reports, I have come to know that the four departments in the government, i.e. law, home, tourism and revenue are studying the matter and high-level bureaucrats will decide on the issue. I believe some queries about this were raised in the legislative council as well but the government has so far  not responded.

The executive has to implement laws framed by the legislature and has no discretion on whether or not to implement it. The government has to either decide to notify and enforce the law or repeal the legislation. It cannot keep the legislation in cold storage or abeyance forever- it has to take a decision one way or the other and inform the people of the state.”

It is also understood that another company, SGT Sports Gaming Pvt. Ltd. has also submitted a proposal to the Chief Minister to authorise and license sports betting shops in urban areas under the casinos legislation and has asssured the government over Rs. 500 crores of revenues annually. To prevent problems associated with gambling, the company has added that it proposes to install cctv  cameras in all its betting terminals and link the feed to the nearest police station.

The proposal also adds that only those filing income tax returns and having a PAN card will be allowed to place bets in the shops to avoid the problem of addiction amongst the poorer sections of the society.

The prinicpal secretaries of the four departments- Home, Law & Judiciary, Revenue and Tourism are likely to meet and take a decision on the matter very soon. In fact, Parag Jain, Managing Director of Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) has already written a letter to the Home Department stating that their department is in favour of casinos as it will bolster tourism.

 



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