Congress walks out as Madhya Pradesh assembly passes GST amendments

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Congress legislators in the Madhya Pradesh assembly staged a walkout on Tuesday in protest against proposed amendments to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill 2023, which seeks to levy a 28 per cent tax on online gaming including betting reported NaiDunia. The opposition party criticised the move, alleging it was an endeavour to legitimize such activities, expressing concerns over its adverse impact on the state’s youth.

The Week reported extensively on the matter, mentioning that Finance Minister Jagdish Devda introduced the bill to amend the GST Act, highlighting the prevalence of various online games involving substantial amounts of money in the state. He highlighted that despite the significant financial transactions associated with these activities, the government was not receiving any tax revenue from them. The proposed amendments aim to bring such online gaming activities under the purview of the GST Act, imposing a 28 per cent tax rate on the monetary transactions, including deposits, made by participants.

Devda informed the assembly that similar provisions were already in place at the central level, and the amendment seeks to align the state’s tax structure with the national framework. He emphasized that the amendment would ensure that online gaming operators, including those operating from abroad, contribute their fair share of taxes on their earnings.

The opposition members raised concerns regarding the potential repercussions of legalizing and taxing online betting and gaming. Senior Congress members questioned the government’s reliance on revenue generated from such activities and expressed apprehensions about its impact on the youth.

Leader of Opposition Umang Singhar criticized the government’s approach, questioning its priorities and highlighting the potential risks associated with promoting online betting and gambling. He pressed for clarity on the government’s policies regarding online gaming registrations and urged for measures to safeguard the interests of the youth.

In response to the opposition’s objections, the ruling party proceeded to pass the amendments based on its majority in the assembly, despite the Congress’ walkout.

The passage of the SGST Bill on online gaming, horse racing and casinos has sparked debates about the ethical and economic implications of legalizing and taxing online gaming activities, with concerns raised about its potential social costs and impact on vulnerable segments of society.