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Sikkim prepares to open India’s first ‘online’ betting shops

TAGs: India, Sikkim, sports betting

india-sports-betting-mudgalSports betting should be legalized in India post-haste, according to the man who led the inquiry into alleged match- and spot-fixing in the India Premier League (IPL).

Speaking recently at the Sports Authority of India, Southern Center, Mukul Mudgal (pictured), the former chief justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court, said India needed to legalize sports betting to reduce recurrences of the cheating shenanigans that gave the IPL such a black eye two years ago.

Mudgal expressed similar sentiments as long ago as 2012, a year before India’s cricket world was rocked by allegations of cheating and fixing. In May 2015, Mudgal again argued for legal betting, saying it would reduce the generation of “black money” in the sport.

In his most recent call to arms, Mudgal noted that groups like FIFA had systems in place to analyze suspicious betting patterns. The Deccan Herald quoted Mudgal saying that fixing shenanigans “cannot be eliminated completely but can be reduced to certain extent by taking such measures.”

SIKKIM BRACES FOR NEW BETTING SHOPS
Despite Mudgal’s urging, India’s central government has yet to push for betting legalization. However, the state of Sikkim is preparing to open its first betting shops after the legislative assembly passed the Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2015 in late July.

The legislation allows operators to offer online sports betting, casino and poker games via “intranet gaming terminals” that are only accessible within Sikkim’s borders. Sikkim is a small land-locked state with a population of just over 600k, so revenue generated by these terminals could be slim. Revenue will be even slimmer if outraged opposition legislators can convince the governing party to restrict access to these machines to tourists, leaving local residents on the outside looking in.

A previous version of the bill allowed for online play throughout India, but the central government leaned on the state to amend this plan based on the objections of other, less progressive states. Resistance also came from the Reserve Bank of India, which said it would refuse to process online wagering transactions.

Several companies have been licensed to operate gaming terminals in Sikkim, including Future Gaming Solutions and Golden Gaming International Pvt Ltd (formerly Maarm International Pvt Ltd). The latter firm plans to open a 6,600-square-foot venue in Sikkim’s capital Gangtok once the state governor gives the legislation his official stamp of approval and the Directorate of State Lotteries gives the go-ahead. Each betting shop will pay annual tax revenue of Rs 500m (US $768k) or 10% of net revenue, whichever is higher.

Sikkim is India’s most progressive state on gaming issues, boasting lottery games and two operational casinos in five-star hotels. The state also launched an online lottery under the Playwin brand in 2001. The state’s tourist numbers more than doubled following the opening of its casinos in 2009 and the state hopes the betting shops will provide a further bump.

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