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In a just released news break, it has been stated that the Maharashtra government is considering floating casinos, a la Goa. The proposal has come in lieu of the government’s response to the PIL filed by Jay Sayta last year, with regard to the Maharashtra Casinos Act 1976 and why it had not been implemented even after more than a decade. The act allows casinos to operate in the state on payment of a fee and taxes.
Early April, it was reported that the government had begun the process of taking action on the PIL. The state-run MTDC had welcomed the move considering that it would be a revenue-enhancer for the government coffers.
According to Economic Times, the Maharashtra government is expected to decide shortly whether to legalize casino or not and is also mulling floating casinos, operated through a yacht off the coast. Initially, this would cater only to foreign tourists and once proved a success, would be opened up for the Indian public.
Speaking anonymously, a senior MTDC official stated that, “This would allow the government earn a huge amount of money, but also give a huge boost to tourism.”
The MTDC is aware of the negative social reaction to gambling and hence, is seeking to offset it by having the government control these casinos the first few years. This would also bring in huge revenues for the state.
After being reprimanded by the High Court in January this year, the state government will have to take action fast and as Sayta points out, it has three options in response to his PIL. “One: frame policies and enforce the law, two: study what other states are doing with regards to legalising gambling, or three: repeal the Act through the legislative route.”
Sources state that several top ministers welcome the idea and some have echoed the following sentiment, “There’re so many illegal clubs functioning out of Mumbai already, in apartments and rented out office spaces. The state is losing out on a lot of revenue by not legalising it.”
However, naysayers continue to oppose as a senior BJP minister remarked, “This casinos business should not be allowed, there are other ways to earn revenue for the state,” said a senior BJP minister when ET sought his comment. “If this proposal ever comes up, I will oppose it.”
In response a top bureaucrat stated, “We are permitting lottery. Lakhs of people spend their money on it, yet we don’t seem to have a problem with it. Casinos and lottery both work on the principles of luck. The state has debt of ₹3.30 lakhs crore, this (revenue from casino business) would come in handy and boost our tourism, too.”