Eventus International, organiser of the SPiCE India gaming conference and exhibition, has rejected a media report that it relocated this year’s Goa event to the Sri Lankan capital to avoid legal or immigration problems over gambling company sponsors.
The SPiCE India event in Goa has been cancelled and will be replaced by the “SPiCE India & Sri Lanka Merger 2024”, to be held in Colombo from February 26 to 28, according to an updated Eventus brochure.
The brochure describes the hybrid event as a “monumental merger [that] marks a pivotal moment in the history of SPiCE in India and Sri Lanka”.
Indian gaming news portal G2G reported on Monday (January 29) that the SPiCE India relocation followed a letter in December to home affairs minister Amit Shah from the Society Against Gambling Trust (SAG), which complained that the event is a vehicle for sponsors to promote illegal gambling.
The trust’s letter also called on Shah to turn back or detain Eventus CEO Yudi Soetjiptadi, COO Lou-Mari Burnett, operations director Josh Blom and Eventus staff should they attempt to enter India, according to the G2G report. The letter also called for action to be taken against India-based organisers of the Goa event.
After confirmation that the Goa event had been called off, the SAG claimed responsibility for the outcome on its Twitter account on January 24.
“Following [our] action, gambling companies had to cancel their events in India. Thank you so much, @AmitShah ji. Many congratulations to the SAG team,” the tweet read.
However, Eventus COO Burnett told Vixio GamblingCompliance in an emailed statement that the move to Sri Lanka was merely in response to the goods and services tax (GST) storm that is affecting gaming companies across India.
The decision to relocate “was made purely as an after-effect of multiple companies across India being served with taxation demand/recovery notices owing to the new GST amendments post the 50th and 51st GST Council meetings”, she said.
“The amendments are contentious and there are several connected ongoing cases within various High Courts and the Supreme Court of India.
“We expect to return to India once there is clarity with respect to the outcome of these cases and with respect to the application of the amended taxation laws subsequent to the same.”
Burnett said Eventus does not “encourage illegal gaming companies or their activities as our aim is not to promote or market any unregulated, illegal betting/gambling operations".
“Eventus International wishes to promote gaming/gambling/betting exhibitors in regulated markets and is dedicated to the cause of eliminating companies that operate in the black market.”
In response to a Vixio question, Burnett said Eventus had not been contacted by “any government authority” regarding the Goa event.
“The decision to move the event out of India was solely the decision of Eventus International [on the basis of] the factors listed above,” she said.
It was not immediately clear what impact the relocation will have, if any, on attendance and the availability of conference speakers.
Eventus previously attempted to organise an edition of SPiCE in Chattogram, Bangladesh, last November, although the event did not proceed. Bangladesh remains a highly punitive jurisdiction for gambling activity despite extensive underground gaming networks and calls for reform.