India has a lengthy gambling history, with the activity dating back to 3300 BC. Over the years, different laws and regulations have been enacted to regulate gambling. The Gambling Act of 1867 is the general law that governs gambling in India. According to this legislation, any game of skill isn’t considered gambling, but a game of chance is considered gambling.
Federal Law vs. State Laws
Since the country comprises semi-autonomous states, each of them has adopted its laws to govern and regulate gambling-related activities within their territory. Therefore, there’s no uniformity at the federal and state level when it comes to gambling laws and regulations. At the national level, India has some of the most strict gambling laws and regulations. Gambling is restricted to horse races and lotteries.
Only three states have legalized casino gambling (Sikkim, Goa, and Daman). The law is somewhat vague in categorizing some activities as games of chance or games of skill. For instance, the Public Gaming Act doesn’t define whether poker is a game of chance or skill. Likewise, wagering on cricket is prohibited, whereas betting on rummy is allowed.
Section 4 of the Public Gaming Act prohibits Indians from working at places where gambling-related activities take place. It also prohibits people from visiting such places. As straightforward as this might sound, the law fails to outline activities that lie within the realm of gambling.
Many large and well known online casino operators operate in India legally according to this source.
What Does the Law Say About Online Gambling?
Online-based gambling is a relatively new phenomenon worldwide. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that the Public Gaming Act doesn’t mention anything about online gambling. The Information Security Act of 2000 somehow comes close to regulating online gambling. It prohibits the online sharing of information in a manner that corrupts India’s moral fiber. Nevertheless, it doesn’t make direct reference to online gambling.
Under the Information Security Act, Internet Service Providers are supposed to block gambling websites. However, this has proven to be an exercise in futility since illegal online gambling platforms abound. At the local level, only two states have implemented laws that explicitly address online gambling. In Maharashtra, web-based gambling is completely prohibited. On the other hand, the Sikkim Online Gaming Act allows online gambling companies to operate, provided that they seek relevant licenses.
Sports Betting in India
There’s a raging debate about the legality of sports betting in India. Many fail to understand why wagering on horse racing is legal while betting on cricket is illegal. Although many Indians bet on cricket games illegally, foreign-owned websites allow cricket betting.
This ambiguity has led to calls for cricket betting to be universally legalized. Those who hold this argument point out that cricket betting is more about skill than chance. On the other hand, opponents argue that the legalization of cricket betting will result in match-fixing and other illicit and unsporting activities.
What’s the Way Forward?
As things stand, there’s no clear legal interpretation of what gambling is and what it constitutes. India’s gambling laws are, at best, confusing. Technological advancements have allowed Indians to participate in activities that lie within the fringes of the country’s gambling laws. Gambling-related activities should be defined to distinguish the legal ones from the illegal ones.
Since the Internet was developed years after the enactment of the Public Gaming Act, there’s a need to amend the existing laws so that online gambling is also defined clearly. This will make it easier for the regulations to be enforced in other states apart from Sikkim and Maharashtra. Federal and state laws should also get systemized to complement rather than contradict each other on matters related to gambling. Click to read more about gambling in India here.