The Hynñiewtrep Integrated Territorial Organization (HITO) has demanded withdrawal of the Meghalaya Regulation of Gaming Act 2021 as it would have serious negative repercussions on the society.
The organisation said that a memorandum on the issue was submitted to Chief Minister Conrad Sangma with a demand that it should withdraw the act, which legalises gambling within seven days.
“The conversion of Meghalaya into a legalised gambling hub will have far-reaching consequences on the lives of vulnerable men, women, and their families irrespective of community, economic station, education and belief.” HITO president Donbok Dkhar told reporters at a press conference.
“The State government should withdraw the act within seven days or face mass public agitation,” he demanded.
“We sounded a note of alarm and warning that if the state government legalises such games based on chance and skill it will create a society with chronic social evils,” Dkhar said.
Pointing out that in a state where a majority of the population are Christians, he said even citizens are averse to such gambling and betting. “Casinos will bring with them a culture of degeneration and immorality making Meghalaya the destination for all cunning gamblers especially conmen,” he added.
HITO accused the government of trying to fleece youth from online gaming. “This shows the predatory nature of the MDA government, which has not been able to create adequate employment but merrily callous enough to tax our enterprising youth who have found a way to earn a livelihood through their skills without any support from it,” the organisation said, adding, “The government also paints a pathetic picture of intellect and moral bankruptcy in this present misadventure, which glaringly proves that this intention serves the interest of those in power and their cronies.”
The NPP-led MDA government had passed the act last year legalising gambling in the State. Under this gambling regime all kinds of “games of skill’ and “games of chance”, whether online or physical are permitted under a license granted to companies for a period of five years.
The state government had said the intention was to generate revenue and that that no casino will be open in the state capital or Tura and that the one that the government has given sanction for in Ri-Bhoi will not be situated beyond Byrnihat.
Though gambling is rampant in the state with teer or traditional archery games daily, the government does not earn much revenue from it.
Teer is conducted under the Meghalaya Regulation of the Game of Arrow Shooting and the Sale of Teer Tickets Act, 2018.