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Lotto firm contests CM claim
- Khonglam govt modified deal: MS Associates

New Delhi, Sept. 12: Breaking its silence at a most inopportune time for Meghalaya chief minister F.A. Khonglam, lotto company M.S. Associates today revealed that its online-lottery agreement with the state was not the one signed by the erstwhile E.K. Mawlong ministry but a modified version drafted by the present government.

The general secretary of M.S. Associates, Alok Pandey, told The Telegraph here that the agreement with Khonglam envisaged payment of royalty at five times the original rate offered to the previous government. “We have to pay five times the minimum guaranteed rate of royalty agreed to earlier. So there is no question of the present government not having anything to do with the deal.”

For the chief minister, who insists that his government is merely adhering to the agreement signed by his predecessor on September 7 last year, the revelation spells more trouble than he can perhaps handle. He has had to drop one minister for starting a revolt and there are others who are threatening to pull out from the coalition government if the lottery agreement is not reviewed.

Assam Lok Sabha member Mani Kumar Subba owns M.S. Associates. In accordance with the modified agreement, the company has to conduct one online-lottery draw every week. Tickets priced at Rs 10 each are issued from terminals in Meghalaya and other states where lotteries are legal. Four draws have been conducted since the agreement was sealed.

Pandey said M.S. Associates planned to open 5,000 online terminals across the country. “Our projected earnings in Meghalaya is not much, which is why more tickets will have to be sold in other states. In any case, it is the government that will benefit from tickets sold in other states.”

Sikkim is the only other state of the Northeast to start an online lottery. Encouraged by the response to this trend of legalised e-gambling, Manipur and Nagaland have signed agreement with different lotto companies.

M.S. Associates has threatened to sue the Meghalaya government if the pact is scrapped while the People’s Rally against Corruption (PRAC) is determined not to let the Khonglam government get away with “bartering the interests of the state”.

The organisation, which had spearheaded the campaign against the equally contentious Calcutta Meghalaya House deal, today decided to take the fight to Khonglam’s constituency. A public meeting will be held in Sohra on Monday to mobilise support for the campaign, PRAC chairman H.F. Oflyn Dohling told The Telegraph in Shillong.

Similar meetings will be held in the Shillong localities of Jaiaw and Laitumkhrah on September 20-21.

Dohling said pamphlets describing “why the online lottery is considered a scam” would be distributed among the public from tomorrow. “We will not rest till the masses are aware of the shady deals of the government.”

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