Indian Constitution has divided law making powers between various states and the centre. Gambling is a subject that falls within the legislative powers of various states of India. Most of the states in India have prohibited gambling activities within the jurisdiction of their respective state. However, tourism and revenue generation has forced many states to allow controlled gambling in few states. These states are also required to safeguard the interest of locals from the evil of gambling. This is the reason why most of the states have now started either prohibiting the entry of the locals or making the entry fees very high thereby making the casinos or gambling houses available to rich only.
Goa has been increasing the tariffs to deter the common man from visiting them. Because of an increase in tariffs, there has been a decrease in onshore casinos in the state. On the other hand, the Sikkim government has brought out an official notification prohibiting residents of the state from entering its two casinos to safeguard the interest of the local people. So the trend is going in the direction of tourism and revenue generation by the states and restricting access to casinos for the locals.
As per the notification dated July 4, only persons having the photo identity card or passport issued from outside the State of Sikkim will be permitted entry into the Casinos. An amendment to the Sikkim Casino Games (Control and Tax) Rules, 2007, has been made to accommodate this change. Surprisingly, the Sikkim government has not consulted lawyers before barring home state residents from gambling.
A resident of Sikkim could challenge the state’s rule in court as violation of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution that mandates that State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India. But courts are favouring states when the restrictions placed on residents regarding certain forms of entertainment or recreation have been imposed in bonafide public interest. For instance, in December last year, the Supreme Court had upheld the Kerala government’s decision to curtail consumption of liquor in bars and other public places in larger public interest. The apex court had earlier also upheld bans on online lotteries in various states on the ground that it ruined the lives of several families.
As the notification has become applicable, now the casino owners would be required to maintain the records of guests visiting the casinos because the government will keep a track of all the entries. The licence granted to the casino may be suspended or cancelled if it is found violating the government order.