Mumbai could get casinos after law student uncovers 40-year-old statute

india-mumbai-casinos-law-studentThe Bombay High Court has ordered the government in the Indian state of Maharashtra to clarify its casino stance after it was revealed the state had passed casino legislation four decades ago.

On Friday, the Court instructed the Maharashtra government to confirm whether or not it intended to implement the Maharashtra Casinos (Control and Tax) Act 1976, which authorized casino operation in the state. The Court has given the government one month to respond.

Law student Jay Sayta stumbled across a copy of the Act following a Right to Information appeal. Last December, Sayta sent a letter requesting notification of the Act to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who failed to respond. Sayta then filed a Public Interest Litigation seeking to compel the government to implement the Act, which received the Governor’s assent on July 22, 1976.

Sayta’s petition notes that, at present, casinos are only permitted in the states of Goa and Sikkim. The petition accuses the Maharashtra government of having “arbitrarily and unreasonably kept in abeyance the Act by not notifying it.”

Maharashtra has over 110m inhabitants and includes the country’s most populous city, Mumbai. International casino operators are likely salivating at the prospect of having the opportunity to set up shop anywhere in India, a country with a population of 1.25b who are woefully underserved in terms of casino options.

In the meantime, Mumbai residents are being offered direct flights to casinos in neighboring Nepal. The national air carrier, Nepal Airlines, restarted direct services between Mumbai and Nepal’s capital Katmandu on Friday following a decade’s absence due to lack of resources.

Nepal Airlines commercial director Saroj Kasaju told news agency DNA that “casinos are picking up again in Nepal, and hence we expect to attract a lot of Indian tourists.” Nepal shut down its entire casino industry last year after operators failed to comply with back tax demands but operations have since resumed and the industry has high hopes for its rebirth.