In the backdrop of mounting pressure from church leaders and social organisations, the Meghalaya government has retreated from its earlier decision to allow private parties to run casinos in the state.
Earlier, three temporary licences were issued to private parties to start the casinos.
“I have been very clear that we (government) have given the instructions to stop further process but the process that happened before that order was given, those are there. Hence the decision that we have taken and the communication that we have made to everybody was that we are not going to move further, but before this debate started and before we met the NGOs and church leaders certain process had already taken place and those are the process that were mentioned in the House the other day,” the chief minister told reporters.
“I want to make it clear we have not misguided anybody and those provisional licenses are automatically going to lapse after certain time. Hence, I have made very clear to them (NGOs and church leaders) also and had multiple discussion with them that whatever decision we take in the future we will do it after extensive consultation and engagement with the people, whether it is the church or the organisations or the public in general,” CM Conrad Sangma further added.
On September 14, an influential church body – the Khasi Jaintia Church Leaders’ Forum (KJCLF) met assembly speaker Metbah Lyngdoh, and voiced their discontentment against the move for legalizing gaming and setting up of casinos in the state by the state government.
The KJCLF has strongly condemned the announcement of the state government that it has granted three licenses for the setting up and commencement of the casino industry in the state.
Noting that the casino industry will promote a plethora of crime and illicit activities, and with a concern for the future and safety of our young men and women, the KJCLF called on the different churches and concerned organizations in the state, and the general public to condemn this act of the present government.
The joint action committee formed to oppose casinos in Ri-Bhoi district will launch an agitation from September 23 to scuttle the casino plans if the government tries to go ahead with them.
Taxation minister James Sangma had on September 12 told the assembly that the state government would ensure that no locals are permitted in the proposed casinos that would be opened in Ri-Bhoi district bordering Assam’s Kamrup district.
Reacting to the opposition to legalize gambling, Sangma pointed out that betting through ‘teer’ or archery counters had been legalized since 1992 and this form of gambling had been in the state for ages.
“Even presently it is a fact that betting on games like bull fights (though officially banned), cock fights, dice games is furtively played in remote areas of the villages,” Sangma had said.
The Meghalaya assembly on September 12 had also rejected a bill seeking repeal of the Meghalaya Regulation of Gaming Act, 2021 brought by lone Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement (KHNAM) legislator Adelbert Nongrum by a voice vote.