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Meghalaya: Protests erupt against The Meghalaya Gaming Act and the state’s legalization of casinos

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The members of the four pressure groups led by HANM, MPSO, MPUF, and RBYO flocked to the entrance of a building that was purportedly designated as a casino in Khanapara, Ri Bhoi District, to demonstrate their resistance to the state of Meghalaya’s legalization of casinos and the Meghalaya Gaming Act.

The NGO representatives said they wanted to see the building’s owner during the protest at the front entrance of the supposed building in Khanapara, but when they received no response, the pressure group members were infuriated and kicked the gate. The pressure group’s protest is supported by the local MLA of Umroi, George B. Lyngdoh, who is also the TMC leader.

Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, the deputy chief minister, Prestone Tynsong, and Cabinet Minister James PK Sangma’s effigies were set ablaze in Byrnihat, Ri-Bhoi by Hynñiewtrep Integrated Territorial Organisation (HITO) to symbolize the protesters’ expression of disagreement.

In order to express their objection to the casino project before this, the pressure group organised a public procession from Lad Umsaw to the office of the traditional chief of Raid Marwet. The HITO protesters staged a sit-in in the middle of NH-6, causing a traffic jam that was eventually cleared by police after they were stopped near Byrnihat by the district administration and police.

The Meghalaya Gaming Act, according to Lyngdoh, has three main components: legalising casinos, online gambling, and online betting on sports like football, cricket, and others.

“(Therefore), we are not only opposing the casinos, but also speaking up for the removal of the law altogether,” he was quoted by Syllad.com.

“In the year 2019-20, the government released 1200 crores for free. If on one hand you release the revenues and on the other hand you set up casinos for earning revenues, the misutilisation of funds is very evident. The drop in the PCI also indicates unemployment. When we sit with people, many youths and elderly citizens complain that there is no wage employment,” he added.

Three casinos still have legal licences to operate, despite Chief Minister Conrad Sangma’s statement during the Autumn Assembly Session that licencing would be stopped, adding that the MDA government should make clear their intentions rather than adopting a vague viewpoint on the casinos, while their deeds favour the legalisation of casinos in the state.

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