The atmosphere inside Casino DeltinDenzong is electrifying and addictive. All throbbing and thriving within a signature Sikkimese style, from sight to sound. The tickety-tock at the roulette table; the jingle of slot machines, and the distinctive swoosh of a croupier shuffling cards. Amidst the live entertainment, a first-time gambler jumps for joy—the delirious thrall of beginner’s luck. And true to Paul Newman’s “a dollar won is twice as sweet as a dollar earned” in The Color of Money, the players wager away, savouring their aperitif slowly.
Welcome to Gangtok, the Las Vegas of India! Breathtaking Himalayan views, Sikkimese hospitality, pleasant climate, pure air and casinos on the side. The last one is the new calling card. Sikkim is the country’s first state to have onshore, or land-based, casinos after it legalised gambling in 2009 to lure visitors. The only other place to have casinos is Goa, where a quirk of law keeps the pastime off the coast, on ships in the sea. Gambling—a taboo in many communities across India—is illegal in most states but that hasn’t sapped people’s appetite for it. The proof is penny-stake games at street corners and card parties in affluent homes. Illicit and untaxed!