Meghalaya Confirms Gaming Ban For Locals Despite Liberal Turn

April 25, 2022
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A Meghalaya government minister has told national media that only visitors to the northeastern Indian state will be allowed to gamble online or in land-based facilities, confirming a regulatory exception for locals quietly released late last year.

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A Meghalaya government minister has told national media that only visitors to the northeastern Indian state will be allowed to gamble online or in land-based facilities, confirming a regulatory exception for locals quietly released late last year.

James Sangma, the state’s minister for law, taxation and other departments, told journalists on Thursday (April 21) that the legalisation of online and land-based gaming in early 2021 is tourism-driven and that a December 2021 regulation will prevent locals from taking part in gaming with stakes.

“We came out with a Gaming Act and subsequently framed the Regulation of Gaming Rules, 2021. The government will accordingly issue licences to operate games of skill and chance, both online and offline,” he said in a press meeting in Shilong, the state capital, according to The Hindu daily.

“But legalised gambling and gaming will only be for tourists and not residents of Meghalaya,” he added.

The Regulation of Gaming Rules 2021, which was released last December with no fanfare and scant media attention, buries the restriction for locals in Section 18(b)(x) of the rules.

That clause requires “a statement [at the entrance of a gaming premises] that only those persons shall be allowed entry into the physical premises who are having valid voter ID card or Aadhaar card [a unique national ID card] or Driving License or Passport, bearing address outside of Meghalaya”.

Sangma’s comments to the media and an uptick in national media coverage of the matter follow similar remarks to an online gaming conference organised by the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) in early April, during which he also flagged the development of integrated resorts.

Meghalaya’s liberalisation of gaming was a watershed for the Indian gaming industry given its embrace of sports betting and games of chance with stakes — popularly described as “gambling” in India — as well as constitutionally protected "non-gambling" games of skill with stakes.

This inclusion of gaming products that are considered taboo in much of the rest of the country, and their provision to Indians from around the country, has elevated the state to the most liberal of gaming jurisdictions.

However, the decision to restrict locals from such products, while consistent with the right of state governments to legislate on gaming matters, may also be in breach of the same constitutional protections for local access to skill gaming products.

No gaming interests have objected to the restriction at this time, possibly in part to AIGF’s coordination with the government and Meghalaya’s small population of less than 4m.

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