Sikkim’s casinos wait for flights, and soaring revenues

Like in most towns of northeast India, dusk descends quickly in Gangtok. As shops start winding up, the only places that continue to buzz with activity are three casinos, located within 10 km of Sikkim’s capital city. Sherap Lepcha, general manager of Casino Mahjong, is busy overseeing the casino which, on a weekday evening, hosts over 150 guests. “We provide night life to Sikkim,” says Mr. Lepcha. But he feels that the infrastructure does not match the taxes. Mr. Lepcha explains that out of the entry fee of Rs. 3,500 for every visitor, Rs. 1,000 goes as tax to the State and Rs. 700 as GST. “We pay 28% GST and above that 30% income tax, but the nearest airport is almost 120 km away,” he says. T.J. Namgyal, a descendent of the Sikkim royal family, hops from one table to other at Casino Mahjong, a 7,000 sq.ft. facility with 15 gaming tables, in a five-star hotel near Ranipool. The 56-year-old says Sikkim is waiting for the airport at Pakyong.

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