Inside Asian Gaming

February 2008 | INSIDE ASIAN GAMING 11 D espite much speculation about the potential for licensed land-based casino gaming in India,no lobbyist or entrepreneur so far seems to have extracted a public commitment from the central government to make it happen. In one case a putative casino developer reportedly paid significant sums of money to a third party to campaign on his behalf with government contacts. He later discovered the lobbyist was unable to deliver on the deal. The problem may be that India isn’t against land casinos per se, it just wants them owned by Indians. One of the main difficulties for gaming lobbyists seems be the tensions between the centre and the individual states in India’s federal system of government (or Union as it is officially known). Several states or at least elements in their political elites appear quite receptive to the idea of land based gaming, but so far the central authorities have resisted such moves. Society The arguments against casino gaming in India appear at first glance to be the familiar ones traditionally mobilised by Asian governments, namely that it would be socially divisive as a symbol of conspicuous consumption in a still developing country and that unwelcome things such as prostitution and drug taking would hitch an unbidden ride on legal gaming’s coat tails. The problem with the first point is that India is already a divided society of haves and have nots, and is becoming increasingly so because of the fast pace of economic change in the cities compared to the countryside.Under these circumstances the introduction of gaming would be at most an effect, not a cause, of the divide between rich and poor. The ‘Two Indias’ argument is graphically illustrated by some data on GDP from India’s Central Statistical Organisation (CSO). Wealth gap According to figures for 2004-05—the most recent reliable figures available— Haryana state near the national capital Delhi is ranked only 16th in terms of population, with 21 million citizens, but second in terms of state GDP (when Delhi and the Union Territories of Chandigarh and Puducherry are excluded). Mainly rural Uttar Pradesh next door to Haryana is ranked first in population with 186.7 million people, but only 14th in terms of income. A less socially divisive system may be for India to sanction more onshore online gaming. The country is gradually getting wired up and the government would get a tax windfall. Online gambling has the potential to fetch the government at least Rs 12.5 billion (US$315 million), says the chief executive of the company that pioneered online lotteries in India. Online “Ifthegovernmentpermitsonlinegaming, Market Outlook Credible India It pays potential gaming investors to understand domestic forces The social disharmony argument against gaming cannot, however, be ignored in a country where half the population earns less than US$1 per day.