Forgotten Law May Mean Casino Gambling Legal In MumbaiSeptember 11, 2015 10:57 am
A forty year old law called the Maharashtra Casinos Act could mean that casino gaming in India’s second most populous state is legal. In 1976, the piece of legislation apparently authorized casinos to operate in the state of Maharashtra, a region which now contains more than 112 million people, but the law was promptly overlooked and subsequently faded into obscurity.
That was until law student Jay Satya discovered the Act through the Right to Information, and subsequently sent a letter to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis seeking clarification on the law. Currently just three states allow casino gambling, namely Goa, Daman and Sikkim, although Daman has yet to open its first casino. As Jay Satya wrote in his letter:
“Goa and Sikkim are the only two states that currently allow casinos. The government of Maharashtra has arbitrarily and unreasonably kept in abeyance the Act by not notifying it.”
Perhaps caught off guard by the unearthed Maharashtra Casinos Act, the local government has yet to respond to Satya’s request, and so he has now filed Public Interest Litigation, leaving the Maharashtra government four weeks to layout its legal position on casino gaming. The petition was filed via the Mumbai High Court, which asked Satya’s senior advocate, Mihir Desai, why his client wanted to see casino gambling in Maharashtra when the region has already many pressing problems to tackle. In response, the advocate said his client had found underground gambling was prevalent in the state, and that the Act could help stamp it out. The High Court then issued the following ruling:
“We direct the state government to decide within reasonable time on the issue of implementation of Maharashtra Casinos (Control and Tax) Act, 1976, particularly since the legislation was enacted almost 40 years ago.”
In the meantime, state residents in Maharashtra’s capital city, Mumbai have recently been offered direct flights to Nepal, whose casino industry was shut down last year after operators failed to pay their back tax obligations. The situation has now been resolved, and as Nepal Airlines commercial director Saroj Kasaju explains, “casinos are picking up again in Nepal, and hence we expect to attract a lot of Indian tourists.”