Bangladesh, officially known as the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, is a country in South Asia, ranking among some of the most populous countries across the globe. Being under British rule for quite some time, the laws regulating gambling in the country were established in 1867, while Bangladesh was still a part of the British Empire.
If you want a simple answer to the question of whether gambling is legal in Bangladesh, we must, unfortunately, answer with no, it is not. As outdated as the current laws in the country may be, they still apply to all forms of gambling, deeming all of them illegal. Lotteries and horse racing wagers are excluded from these restrictions as they fall under the category of “games of skill”, along with several other games.
The main issue of the laws regulating gambling is that they are outdated, giving no relevant definitions of gambling, or online gambling. This makes the regulation of such activities way too vague, with individuals in Bangladesh often looking for loopholes in the law to allow them to enjoy their favorite forms of gambling one way or another.
History of Gambling in Bangladesh
As Bangladesh has been under British rule, it is no surprise that many of the laws in the country have been heavily influenced by British culture and views on things. Gambling makes no exception, with this activity being regulated until present days by a law that was enacted back in 1867. What is more, since 90% of the population in Bangladesh is Muslim, it comes as no surprise that gambling has not been legalized as it is frowned upon by Sharia law.
Not only is the history of gambling in Bangladesh almost non-existent, but it is unlikely for the current laws to change and allow a less conservative regulation of this sector. While all forms of gambling are illegal in Bangladesh, bets on horse races are the only exception. To be allowed to make wagers on horse races, however, punters must place their bets on the day the race is being held. In addition to that, the wagers must be placed with authorized bookmakers, in the dedicated places for accepting bets on horse races.
While most forms of gambling are illegal in Bangladesh, the outdated law gives no exact definition of online gambling or the penalties that one may face when participating in online gambling.
Gambling Regulations in Bangladesh
As already mentioned, the law regulating gambling in Bangladesh is quite outdated. The reason for this is the Public Gambling Act that regulates gambling in the country being enacted back in 1867 when Bangladesh was under British rule. The Public Gambling Act was initially an Indian law that was later adapted in Pakistan as well. After there were amendments to sections 3 and 4, and section 2 was repealed, the Public Gambling Act was also adopted in Bangladesh.
In addition to the Public Gambling Act, the Constitution of Bangladesh is also providing a few guidelines to regulate gambling. According to the Constitution, the state is required to implement the correct “measures to prevent prostitution and gambling”. Despite that, cafes, restaurants, and pool clubs have become regular gathering spots for gamblers, with local authorities often raiding these locations.
The Public Gambling Act of 1867
1Dicting the legal status and the penalties
The Public Gambling Act of 1867 is the main law that dictates the legal status of gambling in Bangladesh and the penalties that individuals may face when breaking the law. Under Section 4 of the Public Gambling Act, those who are found to have participated in gambling activities will face a penalty of a fine of not more than BDT100 or imprisonment of not more than one month. The same act also clarifies that those who own or keep a charge of a common gaming house will also face a penalty. The charge for conducting illegal gambling is a fine of not more than BDT200 or imprisonment of not more than three months.
According to the Public Gambling Act, all forms of gambling are illegal, with horse racing betting and lotteries being the two exceptions. Throughout the years, there were several amendments to this piece of legislation to allow a few forms of lotteries and place prize bonds in a category different from ‘gambling’. The changes to the law also introduced a 21% tax that applied to horse riding tote as well as operations of bookmakers.
2Legality of Lottery in Bangladesh
While all forms of gambling are illegal in Bangladesh under the Public Gambling Act that was enacted in 1867, there were several amendments to the law to decriminalize lotteries. Lottery games are considered wagering contracts as they represent an agreement to award money or money’s worth provided a certain event did or did not happen.
Under Section 30 of the Contract Act 1872, “agreements by way of wager are void; and no suit shall be brought for recovering anything alleged to be own on any wager, or entrusted to any person to abide the result of any game or other uncertain event on which wager is made.”
There are, however, a few exceptions made in the section on wagering contracts. Placing bets on horse races that offer a prize of BDT500 or higher do not fall under the category of void wager agreements.
Lottery games do fall under the definition of “wagering agreements” since the seller of lottery tickets agrees to pay the buyer a certain amount with the proviso that a specified certain event happens in the future. In the case of lottery games offered in Bangladesh, that “specified certain event” is the raffle draw. Since the draw determines the winning ticket, the purchaser of the winning lottery ticket must be paid the promised amount provided he/she is the winner.
Under the same law declaring that any wagering agreement is void, including lotteries, any sum that is due to be paid is also void. This means that anyone who is deceived while participating in such lotteries cannot resort to any legal remedies as wagering agreements are void from the very beginning.
When it comes to state-issued lotteries, however, the case is a bit different. According to Section 294A of the Penal Code 1860, lottery games that are issued and authorized by the government if Bangladesh are valid. Under the same section of the Penal Code, anyone who conducts lottery activities at any office or place without being authorized by the local government will face a penalty of a fine, imprisonment of six months, or both.
Under the same section of the Penal Code, a penalty is also served by individuals who offer to pay money, deliver some type of goods, or do or refrain from doing anything for the benefit of any person involved with an event or contingency that is somehow relevant to a ticket draw, lot, figure or number in a lottery game. The relevant punishment in such cases is a fine that can be of up to BDT1,000.
Online Gambling in Bangladesh
Since the Public Gambling Act was enacted all the way back during the times Bangladesh was under British rule there are no definitions of online gambling and the way it is supposed to be regulated. Lacking such clauses gives many Bangladeshis the chance to participate in different forms of gambling on foreign websites.
The lack of actual local authorities to regulate gambling in Bangladesh is yet another reason for online gambling being more popular in the country. While there are no online casinos that have been licensed in the country, many Bangladeshi players can join foreign websites where they can place wagers on various casino games or bet on different major sporting events.
While participating in online gambling is still not specifically covered by the current laws regulating gambling in Bangladesh, making wagers online is still not legal for Bangladeshi players. What is more, there is no way for operators to apply for a license allowing them to offer online gambling under any form to people based in Bangladesh. Any individual caught building a gambling venue will be prosecuted and can face pretty harsh penalties. That said, as laws are way too vague when it comes to online gambling, there are various gaming sites that will accept Bangladeshi players.
It is clear that the law regulating gambling in Bangladesh is outdated, lacking severely when it comes to regulating online gambling. While most forms of gambling have not been legalized in the country, legal loopholes allow Bangladeshis to join various foreign websites where they can place wagers on different casino games.
Not only is the outdated Public Gambling Act incapable of regulating online gambling, but any applicable punishments are not very proportionate to the possible income one can earn thanks to offshore online gambling. With some players having the chance to win millions of money, a fine of BDT500 is not a big deal for those who are willing to take the risk of gambling online.
As offshore gaming sites that welcome Bangladeshis are based in foreign countries, local laws are not applicable and there are still no cases of players from Bangladesh being prosecuted for gambling online. With no relative laws, this remains an unregulated industry and unfortunately, there are no signs of Bangladesh amending its current laws.
A complete ban on gambling will certainly not solve the issue, especially with the increasing popularity of online gambling in Bangladesh. Instead, the country needs to update its laws and make sure to properly implement gambling regulations. That said, there have not been any speculations of Bangladesh amending its current gambling laws any time soon.