February 23, 2021 9:37 am

Gambling Tax Can Help Form India’s ‘New Normal’ 2021 Budget—Here’s How

In today’s “new normal,” governments around the world are looking for so-called out-of-the-box measures to fill the state coffers as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. In India, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman noted that this year’s budget is poised to be “like never before.”

“In 100 years, India wouldn’t have seen a budget like this,” the finance minister was recently quoted as saying. "Considering our size, population and potential that India hold for good growth and building of economy, I wouldn't hesitate here to say that we shall be the engine of global growth along with a few other countries. We will be a significant contributor to global economic revival."

India tax proposals: Less is more for 2021

Introduced in the Lok Sobha, the Finance Bill, 2021 has been described as an attempt to show the government’s restraint—along with resilience and self-reliance—amid the ongoing pandemic. The Hindu analysis notes, “The Union Budget 2021 embodies the ‘less is more’ approach in an effort to purge the Indian economy afflicted by a year long slowdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak.”

This year, the Union Budget is seeking to overhaul the tax assessment and dispute resolution process, while also mitigating the compliance burden for small taxpayers as well as clarifying the legislative intent on some widely litigated tax issues.

“In all, as is evident, the Finance Bill, 2021 attempts to bring changes that affect every sphere, without doing too much. Effective implementation of these measures, listening to stakeholders and rolling out further clarifications where due is going to be key for the success of this fiscal’s Union Budget,” according to authors of The Hindu analysis, Amit Singhania, partner, and Suyash Sinha, senior associate of Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas &Co.

Legalised gambling offers more

As Sitharaman and company look at different ways to raise capital, there are many “out-of-the-box” measures that can help the government finance the crisis. This year, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has signed a loan agreement with the government of India in Delhi for up to 30 billion yen, or over Rs 2,100 crore, for the government’s program to address COVID-19’s socio-economic impact across different sectors.

Legalised gambling, meanwhile, can generate remarkable revenue for the government—and it’s not just limited to sports betting and cricket in India. Casino in India, particularly in Goa and Sikkim, have been open for the past couple of months. Gaming lawyer Jay Sayta said “the two market’s casinos are almost back to normal in terms of footfall and revenue.” These two states are not alone.

The number of searches on Google for keywords related to online casino increased with over 140% YoY, which indicates that the awareness of gambling online is increasing in the Indian population, says Mattias Bergehed, CEO and Co-Founder of ENV Media 

“Meghalaya is one state which is actively looking at allowing land-based casinos and has recently passed an ordinance for regulation of all kinds of gaming activities. We will have to see the rules and licensing norms that they come up with, but it looks as if there will be positive movement in the state,” Sayta told Asia Gaming Brief.

As business coach Gaurav Bhagat tells The Week, “I know this has a social repercussion, (but) the revenue that this can generate for the coffers of the government will be really very high… There already are existing underground channels which exist for sports betting and legalising it will help in generating an amazing revenue for the exchequer.”

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