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Detailed Guide On Legality Of Casinos: Gambling Laws India

Gambling Laws in India: Legality Of Casinos

Whenever the legality of online gambling and sports betting in India is questioned, several other questions are raised along with it. While some people argue over whether it’s a game of luck or skill, others put forward the issue of morality. Yet others debate over the effect legalized gambling will have on the economy and suggest that legal sports betting may affect the sport itself in a negative way.

It’s hard to assign the “Right” or “Wrong” tags on these arguments, as most of them are reasonable in their own way. Suffice to say, gambling laws in India are a massive grey area. But that doesn’t answer the question, “Is it legal to gamble in India?” So today, we at Indian Casinos will walk you through everything and settle your queries once and for all.

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Is Gambling Legal in India?

Here’s the lowdown:

India doesn’t have a clear set of laws for online gambling. So if you’re interested in gambling online, you can do so relatively risk-free. All you need to do is make sure to use trusted bookmakers and casinos like the ones enlisted on our website.

 

That’s pretty much everything you need to know about the legality of online gambling in India. However, if you want to know the specifics, we’ve got it all for you right here. Read on.

It all started with the Public Gambling Act of 1867.  This was the law that prohibited gambling in India long ago in the colonial period. It stated that it was illegal to either offer gambling services on a federal level or visit and use a public gambling facility. Though this law was aimed to curb all forms of gambling in the day, naturally, it failed to make any mention of online gambling. After all, online gambling hadn’t been born yet.

So when online gambling starting catching on in India, some started questioning its legality. It was speculated that if the government intended to forbid it, it would have amended the Public Gambling Act of 1867 to include online gambling. But the federal government handed the responsibility to the states, to each take their own stance on this issue.

Only the state of Maharashtra banned online gambling outright. However, Sikkim and Goa went the other way and legalized and regulated online gambling for the masses. But most other states still haven’t taken a decision on whether they want to ban or legalize online gambling, and so it remains a grey area.

Since no moves were made by the authorities over the increasingly popular online gambling in India, the logical conclusion is that online gambling in India is legal. Add to that the fact that no one has ever been convicted or even prosecuted for online gambling, it’s safe to say you can gamble online safely anywhere in India except Maharashtra.

Why do the Laws Differ in the States?

We mentioned above that the Public Gambling Act of 1867 prohibited gambling anywhere in India. But then we followed it up by saying the federal government handed the right to make a decision on online gambling to the individual states. This may sound contradicting, so allow us to clear it up.

The Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India explicitly gives states the right to legislate and make policies associated with gambling and betting. It is mentioned in the Seventh Schedule Entry 34 List II that states could legalize gambling should they choose to. Only 13 states out of the existing 29 have used this power, legalizing lottery in their respective states. Only two states — Goa and Sikkim — have many other forms of gambling, including online gambling. Let’s take a deeper look at their legislations.

  • Legal Gambling in Goa

Goa has made two amendments to the casinos in Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act, 1976 to legalize certain forms of gambling. They are as follows:

  1. 26[13A. Authorised Game.– (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, the Government may authorised any game of electronic amusement/slot machines in Five Star Hotels 27 {and such table games and gaming on board in vessels offshore as may be notified} subject to such conditions, including payment of such recurring and non-recurring fees, as may be prescribed.
  2. 27 Inserted by the Amendment Act 13 of 1996.
  • Legal Gambling in Sikkim

Sikkim has made the following amendments:

  1. The Sikkim Casino Games (Control and Tax Rules), 2002 gives the Sikkim Government the authority to grant licenses to individual and business interested in operating casinos.
  2. The Sikkim Regulation of Gambling (Amendment) Act, 2005 gives the Sikkim Government the authority to authorize gambling on certain days and to make specific gambling houses legal at their own discretion by way of a license.

These legislations make Sikkim the only state in India to fully legalise online gambling.

List of Acts Concerning Gambling and Betting in India

Here’s a list of all the gambling legislations in place in India, in case you want to research for yourself. Don’t worry though, we’ll deep-dive into the most important ones.

  • The Public Gambling Act, 1867
  • Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007
  • The West Bengal Gambling and Prize Competitions Act, 1957
  • Assam Gaming and Betting Act, 1970
  • Bombay Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887
  • Punjab Public Gambling Act, 1867
  • Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act, 1976
  • Madhya Bharat Gambling Act, 1949
  • Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, 1930
  • Orissa Prevention of Gambling Act, 1955
  • Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Act, 2008
  • Tamil Nadu City Police Gaming Rules, 1949
  • The Pondicherry Gaming Act, 1965
  • Uttar Pradesh Public Gambling Act,1961
  • Madhya Pradesh (C.P.) Public Gambling Act,1867
  • Karnataka Police Act, 1963
  • The J. & K. Public Gambling Act, 1977
  • The Andhra Pradesh Gaming Act, 1974
  • Public Gambling Act, 1867 Constitution of India, Seventh Schedule, List II, Entry No. 34
  • The West Bengal Gambling Rules, 1958
  • The Rajasthan Public Gambling Ordinance, 1949
  • The Andhra Pradesh Gaming Rules, 1976
  • The Delhi Public Gambling Act, 1955
  • The Kerala Gambling Act, 1960
  • The Meghalaya Prevention of Gambling Act, 1970

The Public Gambling Act, 1867

This 145-year-old law was created during the British rule. It states that it is illegal to either offer gambling services on a federal level or visit and use a public gambling facility. Any person caught will face the penalty of a fine not exceeding ₹200 and up to three months in prison. Though this was the first legislation on gambling in India, it is also partly responsible for creating the confusion we’re facing today. 

It specifically states, “Nothing in this Act shall apply to games of mere skill wherever played” which means, in the absence of other laws against them, wagering on games of skill is legal. The competitions where success depends on a substantial degree of skill are not “gambling” and despite there being an element of chance if a game is preponderantly a game of skill it would nevertheless be a game of “mere skill”.

Information Technology Act, 2000

On 14 April 2011, under the authority of the Information Technology Act, 2000, the Gazette of India published the Information Technology (Intermediaries guidelines) Rules, 2011. This act ruled that Internet Service Providers and Website Hosts were to block certain types of websites and content. Among a list of various types of content to be blocked, Section 2 Item B included anything “related or encouraging money laundering or gambling”.

As we can see, this goes in direct contradiction with the state legislations. In states like Sikkim where online gambling have been legalized, this act cannot be applied. This is another testament to the complexity of the legality of Indian gambling laws.

Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007

On 20th December, the then President Pratibha Patil signed the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007. Going into effect from 12th August 2008, the Act gave the Reserve Bank of India the full authority to regulate all forms of electronic payment in India.

Section 4 of this act states, “Payment system not to operate without authorization: (1) No person, other than the Reserve Bank, shall commence or operate a payment system except under and in accordance with an authorization issued by the Reserve Bank under the provisions of this Act”.

RBI has used this power several times in the past, causing the PayPal fiasco and causing Neteller to stop issuing Neteller Plus cards. What this means is that RBI has the power to instruct banks to decline or refuse payments or deposits involving any particular payment processor including online gambling websites.

Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999

This law is targeted at the owners of sportsbooks in other countries and is relatively unclear as to how it would affect online casino players at the moment. It prohibits any investment in gambling or betting operation by a person residing outside India.

The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002

You might have noticed that every online casino demands your verification using proper documents before you can withdraw your money. As long as you don’t submit your documents and get them verified, your money is essentially stuck in the casino. This may seem like the casino is being greedy by hoarding your money, but the reality is quite different.

The main reason casinos are required to ask for your proof of identity is the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. This act aims to prevent money laundering for criminal gains by requiring anyone offering bets and the like to maintain a record of bets and proof of identity of their customers.

Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017

This claim tries to collect taxes from winnings of both legal and illegal gambling. It states, “Actionable claims in the form of a chance to win in betting, gambling, or horse racing in race club”, being in the nature of services are also taxable under the new GST system”.

The Young Person’s (Harmful Publications) Act, 1956

We all agree that children and teenagers should not be allowed to gamble since they don’t have a grasp on the complete picture yet. In junction with this belief, The Young Person’s (Harmful Publications) Act, 1956 suggests that even any literature on gambling should not be made accessible to children. Section 2(a) of the Act defines “harmful publication” to mean any book, magazine etc. “which as a whole tend to corrupt a young person”

Skill or Luck?

When the Indian legislations and morality regarding online gambling is boiled down, we get this:

“Making or losing money on a skill-based game is okay. While money wagered on something completely random is not.”

But herein lies another problem. Online gambling games involve both skill and luck. No factor is predominant. Even the best Blackjack player can lose to a newbie in any given round, but they’ll definitely win more in the long run.

In fact, the law commission’s distinction between gambling and betting directly collides with the high court’s decision. The law commission says, “It is considered betting when the players have no way to change the results of the match after the bet is placed. And gaming is when the player retains a certain amount of control over his own destiny.” However, later the high court determined that Fantasy Cricket and Dream11, in particular, are considered games of skill.

It’s hard to say why gambling in one game or betting on one game requires more skill than betting on another. So let’s check out what the authorities have to say about specific games.

  • Rummy

Rummy, also known as Paplu, was determined to be a skill game back in 1968. Here’s a supporting statement:

“Rummy, on the other hand, requires a certain amount of skill because the fall of the cards has to be memorized and the building up of Rummy requires considerable skill in holding and discarding cards. We cannot, therefore, say that the game of Rummy is a game of entire chance. It is mainly and preponderantly a game of skill. The chance in Rummy is of the same character as the chance in a deal at a game of bridge.”

  • Lottery

Here’s a head-scratcher: The Central Lotteries (Regulation) Act of 1998 handed the authority of holding authorities to state governments but put a restriction of maximum one draw per week. Today, however, there’s an abundance of lottery terminals in every state and there are lotteries that are drawn every 15 minutes.

The reason none of the states that organize lottery abides by the limitation is that, as mentioned before, they’ve been given full authority to organize their respective lotteries rendering The Central Lotteries (Regulation) Act of 1998 null and void.

  • Horse Racing

As of now, there are eight state legislations which have enacted specific statutes on the legalization of horse race betting. These states are Delhi, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Karnataka, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Meghalaya. Two prominent examples of state-implemented acts on horse race betting are the Bombay Race Courses Licensing Act, 1912 (Maharashtra) and West Bengal Gambling Rules, 1958 (West Bengal).

Even the Supreme Court in the case K.R. Lakshmanan v. State of Tamil Nadu & ANR concluded that betting on horse racing is a skill. The three-bench stated that, “It observed that the outcome in a horse race depends on several factors like form, fitness and inherent capacity of the animal, the ability of the jockey, the weight carried and the distance of the race, which are all objective facts capable of being assessed by persons placing the bets”

While the courts have declared horse race betting as legal, the primary authority on horse racing in India is the Turf Authority of India. Though there are a few independent entities which have their own governing bodies and membership criteria, following are the major turf clubs in India you should keep an eye on if you’re interested in horse race betting:

  • Delhi Race Club in Delhi
  • Royal Western India Turf Club racing in Mumbai and Pune
  • Madras Race Club racing in Chennai
  • Bangalore Turf Club Ltd in Bengaluru
  • Mysore Race Club in Mysore
  • Hyderabad Turf Club in Hyderabad
  • Royal Calcutta Turf Club in Kolkatta

You can bet on many international and national races through online bookmakers. In India, the major races to look out for are these “Classic” races: the Indian 1000 and 2000 Guineas, the Indian Oaks, the Indian Derby, the Indian St. Leger and the Bangalore Derby.

  • Online Cricket Betting

There’s no law that prohibits online cricket betting on India, but the federal government has not classified as a game of skill like horse racing either. Despite the Indian exchequer reporting a loss of almost ₹2 Lakh Crore each year due to illegal betting on cricket, no steps have to be to taken to legalize or regulate it yet. It’s also known that approximately 50 million USD is bet on every IPL matches by Indians on online betting websites. 

Thus, you can see that the online cricket betting scene in India is vast in scale and complex in nature. Let’s take a look at some key events in the cricket betting law timeline throughout the years to get a better understanding.

2013: The Lodha Commission was appointed by the Supreme Court to look into the matter of legalization of cricket betting after the match-fixing scandal.

July 2015: Judge Neena Badal adjudged that cricket betting is not illegal while discharging all 36 people accused of the spot-fixing scandal. This indicated that no action can be taken on cricket bettors.

August 2017: The Delhi Police filed for an appeal against the discharge order.

June 2018: The Law Commission recommended the government that cricket betting should be legalized in India but under heavy regulation. They derived this from the fact that completely banning cricket betting in India is next to impossible. The commission also added that the government has the power to formulate laws to regulate gambling under Articles 249 or 252.

From this timeline, it’s clear that India is speeding towards the complete legalization of cricket betting, and it won’t be long before Indian bettors will be able to play in any online casino without any hassles.

Future of Gambling In India and Conclusion

The popularity of online betting in India is on the rise, and the Indian Government knows it. Even the state governments are debating whether to legalize gambling in their respective provinces. Additionally, the poor performance of the Indian economy has become an incentive to legalize gambling and reap its benefits. Even the changing political scenario seems to be pro-gambling.

All these factors clearly show that the question of legalizing online gambling is more of a “when” than an “if”. And meanwhile you wait for the laws to come on your side, just make sure you play on good online casinos like the ones shortlisted by us after deliberate research. So stay safe and have fun!


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We earn our revenue from advertising and some of these adverts might be related to gambling, however, we do not endorse or condone gambling. Be aware that gambling laws vary between states and territories. Please check your local laws before engaging in any real money gambling. You should always check your local laws before performing real money gambling. In India laws vary from state to state and again we ask users to refer to their local laws before gambling with real money.

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