Besides, Las Vegas, New Jersey, Nevada and Atlantic City, gambling used to be an illegal activity almost everywhere across the world. But, this is history. Today, a number of countries, including India, permit their citizens to enjoy the pleasure of gambling (at least some forms of gambling and online gambling) without considering it as an offense. But, often we have heard that gambling is illegal in India? If this is so, how come online casinos and betting platforms, like 22bet and Betwinner are getting highly appreciated in the Indian market? Isn’t there any specific law explicitly stating the legal status of gambling in India?
Although the 21st century has seen a huge demand for online gambling in India, yet most of the beginners still are confused about the age-old debate question – Is Gambling Legal In India?
If this question keeps horrifying you as well, its time to check the actual update or status. So, let’s get started.
A Brief View Of The Indian Gambling Past
Gambling has been existent in India since the time of Mahabharata, where in a dice game, the king Yudhishtira lost his wealth, wife and brothers to Duryodhana (King’s estranged cousin). Since then, gambling and the type of wagers have transformed into more sophisticated casino games, for example, lottery, blackjack, poker, horse race betting, sports betting etc.
Do All The States Have The Same Gambling Laws In India?
The Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution empowers the states to formulate policies and laws related to betting and gambling. Hence, states have the power to formulate gambling laws within their respective states and could even legalize gambling activities, if they wish to do so. The central government is not allowed to intervene in any decisions (regarding gambling) taken by the states.
While Sikkim and Goa have legalized most of the forms of gambling in a regulated environment, there are 13 states that have only legalized lottery.
Public Gambling Act, 1867
According to a report by KPMG, the overall gaming market (majority of which is considered to be unaccounted and illegal) is said to be around US $60 billion or Rs. 2,50,000 crore. This constitutes nearly 3.5% of India’s GDP. Not just this, the proponents of regulated gambling claim that this activity to be a huge revenue source for Goa, Sikkim and Daman. However, despite this, laws in India have been unfavourable for gambling.
Till date, the Public Gambling Act, 1867 (and other pre-independence statutes) is followed in India, which states that operating a gambling house, assisting someone to operate the gambling house, financing gambling, and visiting the gambling house devices a crime. In case of violation, up to three months imprisonment or a penalty fine of maximum 200 rupees is levied.
What’s interesting here is to note that the act does not explicitly states anything about the online gambling websites or online casinos.
Here, one must also note that the Indian law categorizes games into the ‘games of chance’ and ‘games of skill’. The latter has been excluded from any penal provisions of law that ban gambling activities in India. The Supreme Court of India has also legalized playing games of skill as they involve a person’s intellect and skills.
Hence, The Public Gambling Act also legalizes wagering on the games of skill, like Rummy and Horse Racing. For cricket betting, there is no specific law (both for offline or online betting) that prohibits Indians from betting on their favourite sport. However, the federal government does not consider it as a Game of Skill. This presents a state of irony for the players.
ICC’s Chief Executive officer was in favour of sports betting legalization, according to the news published in the Indian National Newspaper. Many online forums and Indian professionals have recommended the government to legalize gambling in India, but in a very regulated environment. According to them, a regulated environment will keep the mafia out of the gambling economy. Coincidently, this recommendation is similar to the last update recorded on the gambling activities in India.
The Law Commission of India, in its latest update on betting in India, has suggested legalising gambling and betting in a regulated environment.
Even the former CEO of ICC (International Cricket Council), Mr. Haroon Lorgat, has urged to legalize cricket betting sites, as a preventive measure against match-fixing and corruption.
Information Technology Act 2000
Known to regulate cyber activities in India, the Information Technology Act 2000, does not mention anything about Betting or Gambling. Therefore, online gambling platforms are out of its coverage.
It is only the state of Maharashtra that considers online gambling and betting as an offense under The Bombay Wager Act.
Online gambling is in its early stages of development in the Indian market. Back in 2010, Sikkim tried offering three online gambling licences, but it failed. Currently, the state permits online lottery and allows Indian players from across the country to place bets. Taking a cue from Sikkim, it was expected that a huge online gambling market would be established throughout India. However, no major change has been observed yet.
The major reason behind this is unawareness of the legal status of online gambling in India. As stated above, people do not know if they can play online gambling games without being penalized by law.
Indian casinos are not allowed to create websites that promote sports betting, casino, bingo and other online gambling games. Having said that, it is not illegal for offshore companies, or the non-Indian casino companies to create online gambling sites, meant for Indian players. There is only one rule that is legally binding on them, i.e. offering Rupee (Indian Currency) as a payment method for Indian players.
Hence, it can be implied that Indian players can play online gambling or casino games on websites that are intended for the Indian audience, but are not offered by casino companies of Indian origin. Online gambling is thus, a pure global business.
International Casino And Gambling Sites For Indians
In accordance with the information stated above, there are several Non-Indian websites that allow Indian gaming enthusiasts to explore a range of games in a regulated environment.
The central government does not have the power to make legal decisions over bookmakers (especially the UK licensed bookmakers), operating legally and in a regulated environment under European and International Law.
Betway is a globally popular Malta-based company that offers different types of currencies (including the Indian Rupee) and is available in different languages. International sites are exempted from jurisdiction under Indian laws. They operate under other jurisdictions with a legal gambling license. Also, with no servers, promotions or advertising going on in the country, the authorities are left with nothing than can stop international gambling sites from targeting Indian customers. As a result, it becomes easier for people in India to play their favourite online gambling games, use an e-wallet for payment or bet on horse racing and IPL matches, without violating any law.
Some of the most prominent international gambling sites for Indian players include the following –
So, What’s Making Online Gambling Possible In India?
By now, we have clearly understood that involving in online gambling activities (for entertainment of course) is not illegal or banned by any specific Indian Law or Act. If you wish to visit a brick-and-mortar casino and play games without violating laws, you know you have only a handful of choices, like Goa and Sikkim.
However, if you just wanna have some fun with a range of gambling games, you know online gambling sites are the ideal solution.
Here is why online gambling is not illegal in India –
- No Roots In India
As stated earlier, the servers of gambling sites like Betway etc. Are located in countries where betting and gambling is legal. The jurisdiction of Indian laws is restricted to activities that take place within the countries’ geographical limits.
- Virtual Money Payment
The ambiguity of Indian Laws is providing a smooth online gambling experience to Indian players. The online gambling sites once accepted credit and debit cards (issued by the Indian banks) for payment. However, they were prohibited from doing so by the government. Since then, virtual money is used as the desired payment method. Placing a bet online through virtual money is not deemed as illegal.
As far as crypto currencies are concerned, the government declared them to be not legal tender in India. Following this declaration, the use of crypto currency decreased.
- Increasing Popularity Of Online Gambling
Last but not the least, the increasing popularity of online gambling is encouraging more number of investors targeting the Indian audience. Most of the notable investors even pay celebrities to represent their platform. As a result, Indian players get persuaded to bet or play other games on platforms represented by their favourite celebrities.
The Indian Laws are highly discretionary and ambiguous in nature, when it comes to online gambling and betting. Hence, online gambling in India is not illegal, unless the Indian government formulates a law explicitly stating about its status.
So, without the fear of getting caught or violating any law, you can enjoy online gambling at any international website intended for Indian players.