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Sikkim has always been a progressive state in terms of gaming in India and it had seemed that with the start of online sports betting and gambling that it would become a pioneer in the Indian gaming industry. However, the Chief Minister of Sikkim Pawan Kumar Chamling recently announced that local residents will be prohibited from accessing online betting and visiting gaming parlours operated by Golden Gaming.
This announcement comes on the heels of a dissent expressed by social activist Noel Sharma who was arrested for vandalising a Golden Gaming stall in protest of the negative impact that gambling has on the locals. Sharma believed that the operator was illegally promoting betting in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
It was in October 2015 when the former chief justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court Mukul Mudgal had spoken about the need for India to legalize sports betting in order to decrease the incidents of cheating that had plagued the Indian Premier League in 2013.
Around the same time, the government of the north-eastern state of Sikkim was on the verge of launching its first betting shops after the Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Amendment Bill was passed by the state’s Legislative Assembly in July 2015. As per the legislation, operators could only offer online sports betting, casino and poker games via “intranet gaming terminals” that could not be accessed outside the territorial jurisdiction of Sikkim.
The legislation was not without detractions as it posed a serious threat to the revenue of the state if opposition legislators decided to take objection to it or influence the government to only give tourists access to the gambling machines, barring locals from all such recreational activities. Despite these drawbacks several companies got licenses to operate gaming terminals in Sikkim including Future Gaming Solutions and Golden Gaming International Pvt Ltd.
After much deliberation India’s first sports betting and gaming arena was launched in Gangtok in May 2016 by Golden Gaming International. By December, online keno and virtual horseracing services were also offered at multiple locations within the state. Wages on several different sports like cricket, tennis and football were accepted, as well as non-sports games such as roulette and the desi variant of poker ‘Teen Patti’.
The Sikkim Casinos (Control & Tax) Rules had been amended by the government to forbid locals from entering casinos but notification was passed by the then government regarding an extension of the ban to online gaming and betting parlours. This meant that even though locals could not play in casinos located in five-star hotels, they could still place bets at gaming centres and parlours anywhere in the state.
Nevertheless, in order for this ban to come into effect the current government would need to make revisions to the existing Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Act or Rules which has not yet been pursued by the political administration of the state.