Despite strong opposition, Meghalaya govt issues licenses for casinos

Shillong, Sep 14 : Amid the strong opposition from various circles against the issuance of licences to operate casinos in Meghalaya, the state government has issued licences to set up three casinos in the hilly state, officials said on Wednesday. The Joint Action Committee Against Casino (JACAC) and other organisations have been strongly agitating against the setting up of casinos in the state including in Ri-Bhoi district, which borders Assam. Meghalaya Taxation Minister James P.K. Sangma told the state assembly on Monday that temporary licences were issued to provide additional attractions to the tourists, visiting the state from other states. "There are huge competitions to attract the tourists. The other northeastern states have a similar topography like Meghalaya and the states also have historical and archaeological sites. To attract the tourists, we have to give them some additional amusement," the minister had told the House. The JACAC Secretary Ferdynald Kharkamni on Wednesday said they are upset over the government's decision, which also contradicts Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma's earlier assurance. He pointed out that people of Meghalaya are not familiar with casino-type gambling which are now operating in Sikkim and Goa. "Though for the past 20-25 years, gambling has been going on in the state with traditional archery games being betted upon on a daily basis, the state government doesn't earn any revenue from this informal betting. The JACAC would hold a public meeting in Nongpoh (headquarters of Ri-Bhoi district) on September 23 to decide on the further course of action on the issue. All five MLAs of the district, chiefs of traditional bodies, church, teachers and students leaders would be invited for the meeting," JACAC leader Kharkamni said. The Hynniewtrep Youth Council (HYC), a civil society organisation of the Khasi tribal people, strongly criticised the National People's Party (NPP) led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government for introducing the Meghalaya Regulation of Gaming Act, 2021, to pave the way for casinos. Government officials said that the Gaming Act was introduced to regulate gambling parlours that have been operating for years in the northeastern state. Various organisations, including the influential Meghalaya United Christian Forum (MUCF), voiced "apprehension and shock" over the state government's decision to legalise gambling and online betting for tourists coming to the state. The MUCF in a statement earlier said that online gambling and casinos might generate a lot of revenue for the government but the bigger question is whether people are willing to pay the price and are they ready to bear the repercussions of such an endeavour on the society at large. /IANS


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