Indian law strictly forbids many forms of gambling. As online betting grows in popularity across Asia, Indian players want to get their hands on every piece of legislation on it. Unfortunately, the available legislation on online gambling is either outdated or vague.
Over the years, the law on gambling in India has evolved. While it’s legal in some states, it is prohibited in others. In this article, we will try to answer the questions as to whether online betting is legal in India.
Gambling and Betting Acts in India
The Public Gambling Act of 1867
The Public Gaming Act of 1867 is one of the earliest gambling legislation in India. The act was adopted in 10 Indian states, which were the British rule. Later, it would be amended to apply in all Indian states. This legislation has since undergone a few more amendments. And regardless of it being over 100 years old, an overwhelming part of this act remains in place.
According to this act, operating or visiting a gambling venue is prohibited. This act falls short as it doesn’t clearly define gambling. Is betting on dice as illegal as betting on race horsing? If you refer to this act, you’ll not find a conclusive answer. What makes it worse is that horse racing is skill-based. Gambling on skill-based activities isn’t prohibited in the act as it appears to clamp down on gambling activities that are based on mere chance.
The Prize Competition Act of 1955
The 1995 Prize Competition Act allowed the Indian parliament to regulate and control prize competitions. After this act was enacted, states that were previously making their gambling regulations embraced it as central law. However, the state of West Bengal continues to make its gambling laws.
The act states that the promoters of various competitions must have relevant licenses and the prices offered shouldn’t go over Rs.1000. The prize competitions shouldn’t accept more than 2000 entries. It also stipulates that the promoters running the competitions should acquire and hold relevant information from participants. The account information gathered has to be relayed to the licensing bodies.
Police officers were granted permission to enter and inspect gambling premises to ascertain that the laws were being followed.
The Information Technology Act of 2000
In 2000, Indian lawmakers enacted the Information Technology Act. This act was not only applied to cyber activities, but also gambling. The act condemned all types of information transmission that could be corruptive to the public. It mainly affected gambling and advertising.
General Gambling Legislation in India
Horse racing betting in India
Indians have always been huge fans of horse racing. Racecourses are spread out through different regions of the country.
Bookmakers are allowed by the Indian law to offer gambling services on the horse tracks. Pool betting is also offered by Totes operators at the venue.
There are betting parlors in different regions that legally offer horse racing betting on racecourses.
What’s surprising is that the law supports horse racing gambling. Betting on this sport is probably allowed because horse racing wouldn’t be exciting without gambling. Whichever way we look at it, horse racing is a perfect example of the contradictory gambling law.
Lotteries in India
Gambling in India may be strictly forbidden, but lotteries are legal in many parts of the country. This is even more astonishing as the lottery is undisputedly a game of chance. But the Lotteries Act of 1998, which was enacted to regulate lotteries doesn’t take this into account.
The act was passed on a federal scale. Nonetheless, it permitted state governments to legalize lotteries within their borders. The only limitation is that a lottery draw should be held once a week.
Casino gambling in India
Two states in India have legislation that supports legal casino gaming. The first state to allow casino gaming was Goa. Initially, this state allowed slot machines to be installed in various hotels. Later, fully operational casinos were permitted. Goa now has cruise ships and land-based casinos. In fact, casino gambling has turned the town into a popular tourist destination.
Sikkim is the other state that is not only considering legalizing online gambling but also has several land-based casinos.
Online gambling in India
The idea of online gambling was not yet born in 1867. As a result, you’ll not find any reference on online betting in the Public Gambling Act of 1867. It would appear that online betting is legal according to this piece of legislation. This assumption is purely based on the wording of the act.
The Information Technology act also doesn’t touch on online gambling. There isn’t a single law in this act that explicitly declares online gambling is illegal. The act grants Indian authorities permission to block any websites that are deemed as corruptive to the public.
The government has in the past requested internet providers to block the public from gaining access to betting sites. In spite of that, we can’t ascertain the effectiveness of this directive.
In states like Sikkim, licenses are issued to online gambling service providers. The same can’t be said about the state of Maharashtra, which forbids it.
Why are there different laws on online gambling in India?
India is made of 29 states. Each one of them has a state government that makes its laws. That is basically why one Indian state may have gambling rules that differ from the other.
How Indian online laws affect you
The legal structure of online gambling is undoubtedly unclear. You’ll find that most of the online gambling sites are foreign. Fortunately, they take on Indian players. From a legal perspective, these sites are not under Indian jurisdiction; they aren’t governed by the Indian laws. So, using overseas online gambling sites in India isn’t necessarily illegal.
The state of Maharashtra has a clear law that prohibits online gambling, but the rest of India doesn’t. Up to date, no Indian citizen has been arrested or jailed due to gambling online.
So, in the same sense, we can’t explicitly tell you that gambling online in India is legal. What we can tell you is that if you gamble on well established overseas betting sites, you will be fine. Just ensure that the site takes on Indian punters.
However, there is a law in the Foreign Exchange Management Act of 1999 that outlaws depositing money overseas in foreign currency. This could probably land you in trouble with authorities. With that being said, it’s best to work with a site that accepts the INR.
E-wallets such as Skrill and Neteller are also recommended as they help you stay on the right side of the law.
On which games can I legally bet on India?
There are numerous games that you can freely and confidently bet on from India.
Land-based casinos in Sikkim, Goa, and Daman
In Sikkim, Goa, and Daman, gambling is legal. Land-based casinos are run legally. No one will ask you for visiting the nearest casino, and wagering on favorite games.
Games of mere skill
The law in India states that you can bet on games of mere skills. It, however, strictly forbids gambling on a game of chance such as dice.
Horse race betting
Horse betting is considered to be a game of skill in India. This is a sport that you can openly bet on. You’ll find many parlors near racecourses where people wager on horse racing. The same applies to land-based casinos. They accept bets on horse racing.
What’s more, is that horse racing is one of the most lucrative industries in the country. Think of it from a perspective of horse breeding. The fear of destabilizing this economic activity led to its legalization.
The Lotteries Act of 1998 allows the legal operation of state-run lotteries all over the country. The only limitation is that only one draw should be held in a week.
Rummy card games
Another legit gambling activity is Rummy card games. The law considers it to be a game of skills, and the public can enjoy gambling on it.
What is regarded as illegal?
Online casinos that are based in India
The law prohibits online gambling in India. An online casino in India would certainly be unacceptable. Overseas online casinos aren’t under the jurisdiction of India, and that is why punters turn to them.
Games of mere chance
Gambling on games of mere chance such as dice is illegal. The only games that you can openly wager on are games of skills.
Cricket betting is illegal in India. But people have noticed that they can bet on this exciting game using overseas gambling sites.
Real money games (RMG)
Betting on real money games in India isn’t legitimate. This is also, a game of chance and the law clearly states that it’s illegal.
When will gambling be fully legalised in India?
The law on online gambling continues to evolve. It is an activity that can contribute massively to the Indian economy. Therefore, there has been a lot of ongoing engagement in legalizing online gambling from the stakeholders. The government hasn’t made any moves to prohibit online gambling, which means that it is just a matter of time before it is given a full legal status.
Besides that, taxes on online betting end up with other governments, whereas they could contribute to the Indian economy. These taxes would otherwise be collected by the Indian government. Given that this is a massive industry, it makes sense for online gambling sites in India to be legalized.
Gambling laws in India are in real turmoil. One law will say that you can’t bet on a game of chance, yet betting on cricket, which is a game of skill is illegal. Poker is outlawed while Rummy is legal.
What brings about the confusion? It is the lack of clear definition in the legislation. Both the central and state governments are in no rush to clarify the vague laws. So, if you often ask yourself whether gambling is legal in India, the befitting answer is no. The law has just left many loopholes that the public can take advantage of without facing any consequences.
Mind you, state governments have the authority to legalize different forms of gambling within their borders. Goa and Sikkim have done so. Moreover, states are allowed to collect taxes on gambling activities. About 13 states have gone forward with the legalization of lotteries. In fact, as we have mentioned above, land-based casinos are licensed to operate in Goa and Sikkim. There are also over 20 legal gambling facilities spread out in 11 cities.