Shillong, Sept 12: Meghalaya as a tourism destination is facing tough competition from other northeastern states and it requires an alternative to earn revenue and casino can be that option, said Minister in-charge Taxation James Sangma in the Assembly on Monday.
Justifying the government’s move to encourage legal gaming, Sangma said this would provide niche tourism in the state. “However, the gaming will be strictly restricted to tourists who will be allowed after checking relevant documents. No local person will be allowed,” Sangma said when Umroi MLA George Lyngdoh raised concern about the ill effects of casino among the youth.
Sangma said The Meghalaya Regulation of Gaming Act and Rules, 2021, have “fool-proof safeguards” to prevent any ill effects of the legalisation of physical gaming premises on the local population.
“I would like to reiterate that these physical gaming premises are… exclusively meant for high worth individuals (Indians and foreigners) who are looking for safe entertainment options like gaming, while visiting the state for tourism or business or both purposes,” he added.
Lyngdoh’s question was based on a media report about the government planning a casino in Ri Bhoi and objections to it from the Joint Action Committee of Ri Bhoi.
The issue was raised following the stiff opposition of the Joint Action Committee against Casino (JACAC), which was formed by the pressure groups and Synjuk ki Rangbah Shnong, against the opening of casino in Ri Bhoi.
The minister said the taxation department had, before notifying the Rules under the Act, placed the Rules in the public domain requesting members of the public to submit suggestions, if any, and a public notice for the same was published in the English and vernacular local newspapers on August 27, 2021.
However, due to non-receipt of any public responses, the department notified the Rules, by incorporation all the safeguards provided under the Act.
He also reminded that gaming in all its forms has been in practice throughout history and “we would be deceiving ourselves by denying that it is not present in the state of Meghalaya”.