Gaming and lottery operators in Sikkim are determining the gaming models that would work best in Sikkim after the state legalized online gambling in July 2015.
Sikkim passed the Online Gaming Regulation Amendment Bill’ in July allowing operators to offer online sports betting, casino and poker games via “intranet gaming terminals” but only within Sikkim. So far only four gaming and lottery companies have been awarded a gaming license and they are Sugal & Damani Group, Golden Gaming International, Essel Group’s Playwin and Future Gaming Group.
With online gambling services restricted within state limits, these gaming companies are looking at deploying the most cost-effective models. Operators with strong lottery franchisee network are considering a “gaming shop” model under which they would place gaming points next to their existing lottery stores across Sikkim. The operators expect investments in infrastructure to be considerably lesser with this model.
In a statement, Kamlesh Vijay, CEO of Sugal & Damani said, “It may take some time before all licence-holders start their operations in full swing. We’re looking at options to roll out the business in a cost-effective manner.”
The companies have said that “a nation-wide online rollout” like what was proposed earlier would have prompted higher investments. According to experts, using private networks and intranet facilities increase operational costs by two or three times but still does guarantee that online customers will have a successful gaming experience. The operators will initially depend on travel agents to bring in more tourists to Sikkim who are interested in gambling and tour operators are already promoting Sikkim as the India’s Las Vegas.
Gaming laws in Sikkim have been developed based on laws in other gaming and betting-friendly countries. The Government has taken all possible measures to ensure that the operations remain above board by rolling out laws to prevent money-laundering activities, KYC norms for high-value bets, communication and datasharing channels with the Finance Ministry’s Financial Intelligence Unit and imposing strict laws so that minors are not given access.
Gambling operations remain confident of the market potential, saying that they have already observed an increase in the number of visitors to the state. While gaming facilities of Future Gaming and Playwin are already operational, Golden Gaming is currently in the final stages of finishing its 6,000 sq ft “gaming zone” in Gangtok where the company is offering Keno gaming and virtual horse racing. The company plans to also offer other popular sports like cricket, tennis and cricket within the next month. Licence-holders will pay 10% of their profits, or Rs 5 crore whichever is higher, to the government under the profit-sharing agreement.