India’s online gambling market took a symbolic step forward after two operators licensed in the Himalayan state of Sikkim began offering services to state residents.
In July, Sikkim’s state government passed the Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulations) Amendment Bill 2015, which authorized licensed operators to offer sports betting, casino and poker games via ‘intranet gaming terminals’ in betting shops located across the state.
Two licensed operators – Golden Gaming International (formerly Maarm International) and Essel Group (under the Playwin brand) – have since begun offering keno and virtual horseracing at their Sikkim points of sale and other licensees are reportedly gearing up to join them.
Golden Gaming director Manoj Sethi told Gambling Laws in India that his group had launched terminals in about 40 or 50 locations last month. The company hopes to expand its product line to poker, blackjack, roulette and (especially) cricket betting in the coming months. Once those options are in place, Golden Gaming plans to scale up its operations.
The Sikkim government’s original draft of the legislation would have allowed operators like Golden Gaming to offer gambling services to bettors in other states, but this plan was shot down by India’s central government, which passed legislation aimed at preventing Sikkim from undermining the anti-gambling stance adopted by less adventurous states.
As such, the terminals are currently only accessible by Sikkim’s 600k residents or visiting tourists. It’s this latter group the government hopes will be most drawn to the new gaming options, as Chief Minister Pawan Chamling has suggested he might introduce new legislation banning locals from accessing the betting shops entirely if their impact on local society is deemed too detrimental.