Giving a push to legalised gambling in Meghalaya, the State government has appointed retired judge of Allahabad High Court, Justice Naveen Srivastava as chairman of the Meghalaya Gaming Commission.
The commission has the power to issue policy directions for regulations of games of skill and games of chance. It will monitor and submit periodic reports to the State government on the activities of all licensees and will also act as a dispute redressal body for disputes between licensees and players.
On December 15, 2021, the Meghalaya cabinet passed the Meghalaya Regulation of Gaming Rules, 2021 to enable the State Excise Department to tap the revenue potential of online and physical gaming and regulate gaming in the State.
In February 2021 the Meghalaya Regulation of Gaming Ordinance, 2021, was passed. The ordinance overturned the Meghalaya Prevention of Gaming Act of 1970, thus effectively legalising gambling activities within the State.
The 2021 ordinance seeks to regulate games of skill and games of chance within the State by envisaging a licensing regime for all forms of gaming. In a move that is a first of its kind, the law also creates a progressive independent regulatory body called the Meghalaya Gaming Commission to monitor all gaming activities in the state.
While Meghalaya was one of the first states to legalise archery-based gambling, it will now become the third State in the North East after Nagaland and Sikkim to legalise gambling – both online and off-line.
The move to get into gaming in a big way comes some 40 years after archery-based betting was first legalised in Meghalaya, raking in big revenue to the State’s exchequer The Khasi Hills Archery Sport Association conducts the well-known ‘Shillong Teer’, an archery-based lottery.
However, this time round the State will allow only tourists and visitors to participate in these gaming and betting counters after providing valid proof of being travellers from other states or countries.
Discussions on how to make ‘Shillong Teer’ more profitable and widely accepted globally have taken place since 2012-13 onwards but the final push came when Taxation Minister James Sangma met representatives of the UK India Business Council (UKIBC) and other business houses recently to discuss the possibilities.
The UKIBC in its report to the State government, said that Meghalaya is the most gaming-friendly State in India and concluded that lottery, poker, rummy, casino and fantasy sports would do well here.
However, the new rules on gaming and betting, however, did not go well with everyone in the State. Various Christian organisations have opposed the move. Even a newly formed political outfit, the Voice of the People (VPP) said that most Meghalayans have always considered any form of gambling as a social evil.
Former legislator and VPP president Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit said, “The aim of the State government to open casinos in the state and make the state famous for its gambling cannot be accepted as we all know the Meghalaya people have never accepted such games of chance.”
In a bid to stem opposition from conservatives in the State against gambling, the State government has decreed that the rules will allow only tourists to play big in the casinos that will be opened in the Meghalaya-Assam border.