Bill on casinos in Haryana in offing

UFA

A draft Bill for enabling private operators to set up casinos in Haryana may be presented before the next session of the state Assembly in March. A source in the state government’s Tourism Department, which is acting as the nodal agency for the project, said the Bill was being prepared, though details of the project was yet to be sorted out.

“Whether the casino should be a part of an amusement park, or a number of casinos are allowed to be set up at a particular area, or at different places in the state — such issues are yet to be sorted out”, the source said.

The state government, it may be stated, has been toying with the idea of having one or more casino in the state for over two years now and the project apparently is not being executed for fear of protests by Opposition parties.

While stating that the project is being modelled in the style of the casinos of Europe and the USA, the sources said whether or not the idea would materialise would depend upon the political will of the state government. “However, I do think that the government is serious about the project”, said an official here. The Excise and Taxation Department of the state government was already carrying out an exercise to determine the taxation structure of the proposed casino, it was learnt.

If the project is finally cleared by the state government, Haryana will have the unique distinction of being the only state in India to allow UFA gambling officially. The only other casino in India is located near Goa where it is operated off-shore to avoid certain legal restrictions.

Haryana Government sources, however, said the enacting legislation for allowing gambling in a casino would come under the ambit of the state government, and added that antecedents of the parties interested in setting up casinos would be subjected to a thorough check up. There would also be a regulatory body to monitor the gaming activities inside a casino, they added.

One problem being faced by the state government for implementing the project is the restriction imposed by the Union Government on foreign direct investments in gambling-related enterprises. However, some innovative step may be taken by foreign operators to come round this restriction, feel the sources.

Interestingly, the participation of Mr Bhaskar Chatterjee, Commissioner, Tourism, Haryana, in the delegation led by the Chief Minister, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, for an investment seeking tour to foreign countries earlier this month has given rise to speculations about the casino project being one of the items on the Haryana team’s tour programme. This was, however, denied by Tourism Department officials here.

They said if project came through, the state government’s role would be restricted to issuing licences to the interested parties and ensuring proper gaming in the casino through a regulatory body.