Sikkim gov’t bans locals from casinos

Sikkim gov't bans locals from casinos

sikkim-casinos-local-banThe Indian state of Sikkim has prohibited local residents from entering casinos, allegedly for their own protection.

On Thursday, Sikkim’s government issued an official notification stating that locals were no longer welcome in the state’s two casinos. The government said it had amended the Sikkim Casino Games (Control and Tax) Rules, 2007 to “safeguard the interest of the local people.”

The government denied that the change was an example of “moral policing.” An official told The Calcutta Telegraph that there had been “lots of opposition from a section of people” who believe gambling “is not good for a progressive state such as Sikkim.” Politicians in India’s other active casino state, Goa, have also considered banning locals.

Effective immediately, only persons bearing a photo ID card or passport issued from a jurisdiction outside Sikkim will be allowed entry. Casino operators will be required to keep records of all people entering their establishments and could face license suspension or revocation if they fail to keep locals out.

As if the locals ban wasn’t enough, the government also raised the mandatory entry fee for all casino guests from Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 (US $15).

The changes could seriously curb business at the two casinos currently operating in five-star hotels in Sikkim – Casino Sikkim at the Hotel Royal Plaza in Syari and Casino Mahjong at the Mayfair Resort in Ranipool.

India’s largest casino operator Delta Corp was reportedly considering opening a casino in the Hotel Denzong Regency in Gangtok but Delta may be rethinking these plans based on the new reality.

It’s possible that one or both of the casino operators or a concerned citizen could mount a legal challenge on the grounds that of Sikkim’s new rules are unconstitutional for denying individuals equality before the law. But Indian courts have tended to side with governments who claim their nanny state actions are in the public interest.

The new rules don’t apply to the new ‘online’ sports betting shops that opened in Sikkim late last year. However, Chief Minister Pawan Chamling warned at the time that he would consider banning locals if the betting shops proved to be too tempting a treat, so Sikkim residents should enjoy them while they can.