TT, Gangtok, July 7: 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”.
The notification, dated July 4, mentions that only persons having the photo identity card… or passport issued from outside the State of Sikkim will be permitted entry into the Casinos”.
The move is the result of an amendment to the Sikkim Casino Games (Control and Tax) Rules, 2007, that was accepted by the Pawan Chamling-led cabinet recently.
One of the casino owners said he was unhappy with the decision but did not want to be named.
Several government officials were asked if this was the Chamling government’s effort at moral policing.
One government official said it was not so. “The restriction is for the betterment of the local people and it is not about moral policing. There has been lots of opposition from a section of people who are demanding restrictions as they feel gambling is not good for a progressive state such as Sikkim.”
When asked if the government had consulted lawyers before barring home state residents from gambling, the official said: “We have not taken any legal opinion.”
The restriction became effective from today.
A Sikkim state official said: “The casino owners have been asked to follow the order…. They will have to maintain the records of guests visiting the casinos because the government will keep a track of all the entries.”
The notification says the licence to the casino may be suspended or cancelled if it is found violating the government order.
A lawyer in the hill state said a resident of Sikkim could challenge the state’s rule in court. Article 14 of the Constitution says: “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.”
A casino visitor said: “It is my money which I would be losing in a casino. What is the problem if I am a law- abiding citizen. I should be given liberty to do things of my interest. One cannot dictate preferences unless it’s illegal.”
But examples from elsewhere in India show that courts have upheld state government-backed legislation putting curbs on certain forms of entertainment or recreation if done in bonafide public interest.
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.
The Sikkim government granted casinos operating licence in 2009. There are at present two casinos in the state. Casino Sikkim at Hotel Royal Plaza in Syari area (east) started its operation from March 2009. Casino Majhong at Mayfair Hotel, Ranipool, started operating in 2011.
Both casinos hosts all games that are internationally available and some local games as well.