Ten people key to GST Council’s 11th July decision on online gaming, casinos & horse racing

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Reports indicate that the GST Council may finally deliberate and decide on long pending issue on taxation of online games, casinos and horse races in the GST Council meeting next month.

As the ambiguity that arose ever since the implementation of GST may be finally resolved, several prominent persons from the government and industry have played key role in this.

In this post, we list down ten such personalities who were key persons in influencing the taxation regime for online gaming, casinos, and horseracing:

  • Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Finance Minister & Chairperson of the GST Council: The country’s finance minister is the key authority in the administration of GST regime whose say will have a great weightage in the GST Council. Not to be missed she is the representative of the central government in the Council which includes all other states as members.
  • Conrad Sangma, Chief Minister of Meghalaya and Convenor of the GoM on Online Gaming, Race Courses and Casinos: Sangma headed the Group of Ministers (GoM) constituted by the GST Council to examine the GST issue. Over a period of more than one year, he interacted with industry officials, toured Bangalore and Goa to understand practical aspects. However, the GoM couldn’t come to a consensus on valuation aspect.
  • Suresh Khanna, Member of GoM and GST Council from Uttar Pradesh: Representing the most populous state, Suresh Khanna played a pivotal role in GoM meetings. Last year, Uttar Pradesh took a stand of 28% GST similar to that of West Bengal which is on opposite side of political spectrum. Uttar Pradesh is said to be one of the reason for impasse in the GoM.
  • Chandrima Bhattacharya, Member of GoM and GST Council from West Bengal: West Bengal derives significant revenues from lottery and the state government has been pushing for 28% GST on entire value of the bet. It is often rumoured that the acts of West Bengal are influenced by lottery lobby which sees online gaming as a competitor.
  • Sanjay Malhotra, Union Revenue Secretary & Ex-Officio Secretary of GST Council: The centre’s revenue secretary performs a crucial role in devising the union tax policies. It is no doubt that his opinion carries much weightage in the union finance ministry.
  • Mauvin Godinho, Goa Minister & Member of GoM and GST Council: Casinos are a significant attraction for the Goa tourism and a higher taxation may make a dent into tourism revenues of the state. It is for this reason, Goa has been arguing for lower tax rate for online gaming and casinos. It is worth noting that the GST Council directed the GoM to reconsider the issue after the first report basis the objections by Goa.
  • Devendra Fadnavis, Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra and Member of GoM and GST Council: Fadnavis came into picture after the alliance with Shinde led Sena in Maharashtra. As a former Chief Minister, proven administrator, Fadnavis may help in ending the impasse. It is also worth noting that Maharashtra is the one of the member states in the Sangma led GoM.
  • Harsh Jain, CEO and Co-founder, Dream11: The billionaire founder is an influential figure in the online real money gaming sector. He is often seen representing the industry cause before the government. Not to be missed, Dream11 is the biggest real money gaming company by valuation and is a key sponsor for top sports event in the country.
  • Vikas Taneja, Group CEO, Gameskraft: Taneja’s GamesKraft is in midst of tax controversy with GST department slapping a Rs. 21,000 crore notice. Karnataka HC recently gave reliefto the company. While an appeal is expected to be filed by the government, Vikas Taneja as CEO of GamesKraft played a crucial role in the evolution of tax policy for the sector.
  • Santiago Martin, Lottery King: As a person controlling significant lottery distribution network, Martin is rumoured to be the influence behind West Bengal’s stand for 28% GST in the GoM. The lottery federation in which Martin has significant sway has often represented the government for a higher taxing regime for online gaming. The lottery federation sees online gaming as a competitor.

These are some of key government and industry figures who have played pivotal roles in evolution of indirect tax regime for the real money gaming sector.

*The list is in no particular order