Online gambling in India is rapidly growing in popularity, with an increasing number of locals turning to remote casinos for their betting action. This tendency partially results from the internet boom the country has witnessed in recent years. Over 70% of the population has access to a high-speed internet connection.
The rising internet penetration in India has made it easier than ever for locals to gamble at offshore casinos from the comfort of their homes. Figures indicate around 40% of all Indians with internet access have gambled online, with some researchers claiming around 80% of the adult population gambles at least once per year.
The trouble is gambling’s legal status in India as a whole is quite complicated and the complexity arises from the administrative structure of the country. As a federal union, India consists of 28 states and 8 union territories. Each administrative division has its own government, with state governments having the biggest say in what is legal or not. In turn, this means gambling regulations and legislation vary vastly from one state to another.
Laws That Govern Gambling in India
1Overview of Gambling Laws in India
Indian law largely prohibits landbased casino gambling, which is legal only in Goa, Sikkim, Diu, and Daman at the time of publication. These states and union territories have standard landbased gambling venues along with floating casinos that operate on cruise ships. As for online gambling, there are no specific laws that regulate it but it is largely considered illegal throughout the country.
2The Public Gambling Act of 1867
One exception is the state of Sikkim where betting over the internet is legal and regulated. Casino gambling and its regulation are subject to each state’s individual gaming enactment. However, many states have adopted the Public Gambling Act of 1867 that passed when the country was still under the rule of the British Empire.
This outdated legislation was obviously enacted before the advent of internet technologies so it does not contain any provisions regarding online gaming. It prohibits casino gaming, stating that both running and playing in common gaming houses are against the law.
3Penalties for Violation
Violators found guilty of running or owning a gaming house face imprisonment of up to three months or monetary sanctions not exceeding ₹200. With that in mind, Section 12 of the 1867 Public Gambling Act states that it applies only to chance-based games and excludes games of skill from the prohibition.
Additionally, the Act prohibits gaming outside the above-mentioned gambling houses and more specifically in public streets. Section 13 states that officers of the law can apprehend any individual found betting money or other valuables on card and dice games in public. Once arrested, such individuals are liable either for a fine of up to ₹50 or imprisonment of up to one calendar month.
Regulations in Indian States with Legal Gambling
The gaming enactments in most Indian states adhere to the Public Gambling Act of 1867, prohibiting casino gaming activities on their territory. By far, the only regions that host some forms of legal gambling are Sikkim, Goa, Nagaland, Diu, and Daman. Let’s go through the gambling laws and regulations in each of these territories.
Sports Betting Regulations in India
In India, wagering on horse races is also considered a game of skill since it involves evaluating the form of the jockeys and horses, among other variables. There is no specific regulatory body that governs horse race betting but operators might require a license from the states’ relevant turf clubs. The laws in most Indian states exempt wagering on horse races from the definition of gambling under the Horse Racing Exemption.
Social Responsibility Policies in India
The laws in most Indian states do not contain any social responsibility provisions for gambling providers since they prohibit gambling to begin with. In states where gambling is permitted and regulated, only players who have reached the age of majority (18 years old) can engage in such activities.
Gambling Regulators in Different Indian States
As previously mentioned, India is a republic that comprises 28 states and 8 territories, with gambling (when legal) being largely regulated on a state level. In the state of Sikkim, there are two separate regulators for remote and physical gambling. Online gaming and sports betting fall under the regulatory remit of the Finance, Revenue, and Expenditure Department, whereas the landbased sector is overseen by the Tourism Department.
Horse race betting in states other than Sikkim is regulated by the local turf clubs where the races take place. Skill games like poker lack specific regulators in most Indian states, the only exception being the state of Nagaland. The Nagaland Finance Commissioner issues the licenses for online poker and oversees skill-based gambling activities.
To wrap things up, the regulatory landscape in India is a bit complex as laws vary from state to state. Few states allow for legal gambling but the allowed forms of betting are again state-specific. State governments do not actively prosecute players who bet on offshore gaming sites. However, users still face some issues that predominantly have to do with failed payments and blocked domains.
The All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) has approached the country’s Prime Minister requesting the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) to take action against foreign betting sites that service locals without authorization. The organization argues that such websites operate in violation of the 2000 Information Technology Act.
To end our article on a more positive note, Indian punters could potentially see state-wide legal sports betting in the near future. The question of whether or not sports wagering is based on skill is pending before the Supreme Court of India. If the high judicial body determines sports wagering relies on skill rather than chance, it most likely would exempt it from the state gaming enactments so that most states could start offering it legally to their residents.