Meghalaya To 'Completely Scrap' Gaming Law

October 13, 2022
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In a stunning about-face, the Indian state of Meghalaya has announced it will repeal groundbreaking land-based and online gaming legislation following intense political and social opposition to the law.

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In a stunning about-face, the Indian state of Meghalaya has announced it will repeal groundbreaking land-based and online gaming legislation following intense political and social opposition to the law.

Cabinet minister James Sangma said in a Twitter video post today (October 13) that it is in Meghalaya’s “best interest … to completely scrap” the legislation after consulting with social, religious and political stakeholders.

Sangma, whose portfolios include taxation and consumer affairs and who guided the legislation to passage, said the law had been introduced to boost the remote and small state’s revenue, tourism and employment.

But “over the months that followed, there were concerns expressed from parts of the society with regards to the scope and the impact of the Act".

“I met with stakeholders that included religious organisations, non-governmental organisations, civil-society representations … autonomous and local governance bodies, and youth organisations.

“Following such meetings and deliberations, it became clear to me that it is in the best interest of our state to completely scrap the act, given that there could be untoward implications.

“Therefore, it will be my earnest endeavour to see that the Meghalaya Regulation of Gaming Act 2021 will be repealed.”

The state’s legalisation of gaming in early 2021 had been a major breakthrough for the industry, with Meghalaya opting for land-based and online liberalisation, including both skill and chance gaming with stakes, and sports betting.

The regulation of gaming in the state coincided with a raft of state High Court decisions elsewhere in India that backed the constitutionality of skill gaming with stakes, providing momentum for investment, industry self-regulation and market penetration.

However, as pressure grew on the government to curtail or withdraw the legislation, initial expectations that Meghalaya would become India’s most liberal market to date were steadily frustrated.

The government’s announcement in April this year that it was considering support for integrated resorts turned out to be politically damaging, and within weeks the Cabinet confirmed that only visitors to Meghalaya would be allowed to gamble in land-based premises or online.

The impact of Meghalaya’s retreat from liberalisation on other gaming-hostile jurisdictions will be worth watching, as will the response of the industry, which could challenge any resulting ban on skill gaming in court.

Sangma, whose appearances at conferences and in media interviews made him something of a poster boy for respectability in gaming regulation, said in his Twitter video that the public had spoken, and he had listened.

“The citizenry are the keystone of any democracy, and it only strengthens our commitment to better governance when the collective conscience is addressed,” he said.

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