Is Gambling Legal in India?

Date:2024-03-09 Category: Online gambling market
Is gambling legal in India?

The issue of gambling in India is controversial and has been in official and unofficial discussions for many years. Some people in India believe that legalizing or at least regulating gambling can prevent illegal gaming houses and money laundering by crime syndicates. In contrast, others refer to the fact that gambling is prohibited in most of the dominant religions in the country and can lead to addiction and bankruptcy.

 

What does the law say about gambling in India?

The Public Gambling Act of 1867 is a blanker law in India that covers all gambling activities in all the country’s states. However, according to the same act, rules concerning betting and gambling are state subjects. Therefore, each state can either decide to follow the general law of the country or form its own regulations and enforce them. According to the Public Gaming Act of 1867, owning a common gaming house, gambling in a gaming house, or just being present there for the purpose of gambling, and spending money on gaming activities are punishable by law.

 

The only exception to this rule is the games in which success depends more on the player’s skill than luck. These games are called games of skill and are deemed legal by the Supreme Court of India. Let’s see what games of skill are.

 

What are games of skill and games of chance?

As mentioned above, the Public Gambling Act distinguished games of skill from games of chance and legalized the former. According to the definition, games of skill are ones that skill plays a more significant role in the player’s success than luck. Of course, this is a state subject, too, and the boundaries of which games fall into a game of skill category and which games are games of chance are for the State Government to decide.

 

So, according to this definition, games like horse racing, dog racing, and rummy are games of skill and should be legalized. Most Indian states allow betting on these games. However, there are some exceptions where even these games are forbidden (more on that later.) One of the most controversial games in this discussion is Poker. The discussion on whether Poker is a game of chance or skill is endless. You can or cannot play Poker in India based on your state, so keep reading to find out which rules apply to you.

 

What do Indian rules say about online gaming?

Well, the truth is, not much! Indian central government has never mentioned any rules about online gambling. For instance, Sikkim passed the online gaming act in 2008, legalizing Blackjack, Pontoon, Roulette, Poker, etc. On the other hand, Karnataka put a ban on online gaming in 2021. But the High Court in Karnataka deemed this ban illegal and in contrast with the constitution and therefore lifted the ban.

 

Another state that has mentioned online gambling in its laws is Telangana. According to the Telangana State Gambling Act of 1974, online and offline gambling activities are declared illegal. Additionally, in the Autumn of 2022, Tamil Nadu state decided that all gambling activities, whether online or offline, should be disallowed. As can be guessed, the government’s general attitude towards online gambling is negative. But many states don’t have the authority to stop all the international gambling websites worldwide from operating in India. Here is how they deal with the issue.

 

The Payment and Settlement Act of 2008 was designed to regulate all kinds of online payments, which makes international transactions to and from gambling websites across borders more challenging. Additionally, the government has placed a ban on websites and content related to gambling or encouraging people to gamble. Therefore, the majority of the states in India do not have an explicit rule that makes online gambling illegal in India. However, the central government has made it more challenging for people to participate in gambling activities. These days, there is much debate on how and why the government should regulate online gambling to protect people from fraud and other criminal activities.

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What are the legal gambling activities in India?

1. Games of skill

As mentioned before, games of skill have been declared legal in the majority of Indian states except a few. These games are defined differently in various states but primarily include horse racing, flush, and sometimes Poker.

Games of skill

Horse racing is one of the most popular sports in the country, and betting on horses is mostly legal under two conditions. First, the betting must happen on the day that the horse is going to run. And second, the betting should be on the same premise, that is, Turf Club, in which the horse will run. Turf clubs are the only organizations that have received a license to manage horse race betting. Recently the states of Bangalore and Calcutta received a permit from their governments to hold horse racing betting events online, and it is excepted that more states will follow suit.

 

2. Lotteries

Lotteries

According to the Central Lotteries Act of 1998, State Governments are free to draw their own lottery rules. However, there is a suggested limitation on how many monthly lotteries can be held. This law says states are advised to draw no more than 4 lotteries a month. But, again, it’s the state’s decision to make. For instance, Sikkim has a lottery terminal system that can have a draw as frequently as every 15 minutes.

 

3. Cricket

Cricket

Almost none of the rules regarding gambling has mentioned anything about cricket. This negligence is a little surprising since cricket is India’s second most popular game after horse racing. And it’s almost second nature for Indians to bet on cricket games’ outcomes. And since nothing is mentioned in the rules, Indians assume that betting on cricket games is legal, and there are even several cricket betting apps in the country that are easy and trustworthy to use.

 

See also  Is Gambling Legal in Israel?

 

What are the illegal gambling activities in India?

1.      Casino games

Except for the four states of Sikkim, Goa, Damon, and Diu, casino games are forbidden in all the other Indian states. According to the Public Gambling Act of 1867, which most states abide by, owning, entering, and spending money in a casino or a gaming house is strictly forbidden and punishable by law. These games include Blackjack, Roulette, Baccarat, Craps, etc.

 

2.      Bingo

Some states consider Bingo a game of chance, while others categorize it as an unregulated lottery. But in both cases, Bingo is forbidden in most of India.

 

What does each Indian state say about gambling?

What does each Indian state say about gambling?

As mentioned earlier in the article, the central government has left the decision about gambling rules to the states. Therefore, the laws of gambling, the categorizations of games of chance and skill, and the legality of sports betting might be different based on where you live. Here is a list of the most important Indian states and what they say about gambling:

State Casino gambling Horse racing Lottery Poker Online gambling Real and fantasy sports gambling
Maharashtra and Gujarat Prohibited Legal Legal Illegal Not mentioned Cricket betting is illegal. Others are not mentioned.
Telangana, Arunachal, Pradesh, Karnata Prohibited Illegal Illegal Illegal Prohibited Illegal
Sikkim Legal with a license Legal Legal Legal Legal Legal
Meghalaya Prohibited Legal Legal Illegal Not mentioned

(there was a law to legalize it, but it was scrapped)

Legal

Fantast sports are not mentioned.

Nagaland Prohibited Legal Legal Legal Legal and regulated Both are legal.
Goa, Daman, Diu Legal, except for gambling on price changes or stock market changes. Legal Legal Legal Legal Legal
Rajasthan Prohibited Legal Legal Illegal In discussion In discussion
Tamil Nadu Prohibited Legal Legal Illegal Illegal Illegal
Delhi Prohibited Legal Legal Legal Not mentioned Not mentioned
Pradesh Prohibited Legal Legal Illegal Not mentioned Not mentioned
West Bengal Prohibited Legal Legal Legal Not mentioned Illegal, except for horse racing
Odisha Prohibited Illegal Legal Illegal Not mentioned Illegal
Assam Prohibited Legal with a license Legal Illegal Not mentioned Illegal
Pondicherry Prohibited Legal Legal Illegal Not mentioned Illegal
Kerala Prohibited Legal Legal Legal Not mentioned Not mentioned

 

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Final thoughts

In 2018, the Law of Commission of India published a report that strongly advised the Indian central and state governments to frame new rules to regulate online and offline gambling. According to unofficial statistics, 40% of adult Indians are interested in gambling, and the gambling industry in this country has a revenue of $60 billion, most of which is earned through illegal casinos and gaming houses. The benefit of legalizing gambling in India for the government could be millions of dollars of tax income annually.

 

However, many states in this vast and versatile country have done nothing to keep up with the times and regulate the new forms of gambling, which are quickly becoming popular among the people. That’s why most states follow the central rule of the Public Gambling Act of 1867 and have deemed gambling illegal, completely ignoring the new fields of online gambling and fantasy sports.

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