31 Jul 2015

Breaking news: Sikkim assembly passes the Online Gaming Amendment Bill 2015+ CM announces no locals policy for casinos [with latest updates]

As reported earlier Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling introduced the Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Amendment Bill 2015 in the legislative assembly on 28th July 2015. The legislative assembly passed the Bill yesterday. It is understood that the Bill will be sent to the Governor soon for his approval and will be notified soon. Sources close to the government indicate that licensees will be able to start online gaming operations once the changes are notified and implemented. The entire process of notification and implementation will take a month or two, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Though the exact contents of the Bill cannot be ascertained at this point of time, it is understood that a clause specifying that online gaming activities have to be conducted through intranet is explicitly mentioned in the Bill to avoid disparity between the license conditions and parent statute. It is further understood that there are certain changes pertaining to bank guarantee to be submitted by licensees and gaming tax to be paid.

In another related development, Chamling announced on the floor of the legislative assembly that Sikkimese residents (locals) would be banned from entering casinos in the state, much like the rule existing in Nepal and some other jurisdictions. A formal notification and announcement on the amendment to the relevant rules/license conditions is awaited. It may be worth remembering that Goa had also made changes to its legislation to ban locals in 2012 but the law has not been notified or implemented till date.

Further updates relating to the two issues will be added on this post soon.

Update 1: CM Pawan Chamling reportedly made the following statement in response to opposition leader PS Golay’s charge that the current government was promoting gambling activities contrary to its 1994 election manifesto:

“Neither do I drink alcohol nor do I engage in gambling, this is a practical message which I want to give to the people of Sikkim. Casino in Sikkim is only for the tourists. There is a provision for locals not to gamble in casino.”

Update 2: Navraj Gurung, General Secretary of SKM, the principal opposition party offered the following comments on the Online Gaming Amendment Bill, “SKM has been against the amendment bill tabled during the budget session 2015. In the Amendment Bill 2015, changes have been made in Sec 3 sub section 2 wherein the word ‘Internet Websites’ has been replaced with ‘intranet’ and the word ‘online gaming websites’ replaced as ‘Intranet gaming terminal’. This means that the gaming terminals can be connected to the servers via cable connection there by allowing gaming terminals open up in all corners of the state thus affecting the local population. The Bill has the potential to affect locals with the ills of gambling.”

Update 3: Manoj Sethi, Director of Golden Gaming International Private Limited (formerly Maarm International Private Limited), one of the ‘go live’ license holders is confident of starting operations in the state and has even put up hoardings at prominent locations in Gangtok advertising his products. “We hope to start operations by September, once the amended Bill is signed by the Governor and notified by the relevant department. We already have the technical and physical infrastructure in place and are only waiting for a go-ahead from the Directorate of State Lotteries” adds Sethi.

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