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Gambling, in general, is gaining popularity throughout the world, and that is also the case in India. Some definitions of "gambling" say that it participates in a luck-based activity, but not on skill, while others include both.
Gambling laws in India are not straightforward. The most important legislation in the country that oversees gambling is the Public Gaming Act of 1867. So, let’s see all aspects of gambling in India and why it has become such a hot topic in recent years.
Online gambling is quite popular in India, and new punters join the market every day. Furthermore, gambling might be among the favourite pastime activities of Indians. Still, if you are a newbie in India's online gambling world, you need all the information you can get about the sector before starting to wager real money. You wouldn’t want to head into it unprepared and potentially be a victim of fraud.
There is no unified gambling legislation in India that would cover such activities. Gambling in the country is considered a state matter, and that is the only subject with any authority to regulate gambling activity.
The Gambling Act is the central piece of legislation that some states have adopted in the country, but there are no explicit mentions of online gambling.
Section 12 of the Public Gaming Act of 1867 says that skill games aren’t a part of gambling, but every game of chance is. The same act states that it is illegal to be in charge of a public gaming house. The penalties for such activity are strict, and guilty individuals can face up to 3 months of imprisonment.
The act forbids visiting gambling establishments as well, and there is a prison sentence of up to 1 month for such violation.
The issue of gambling in India is a growing concern for everyone, including the country's parliament. On one side of it, you will find people arguing that online gambling should be totally legal in the country, while on the other side, there are people who are against changes.
So, the current legal situation of online gambling is in a grey area. Until the Indian government takes a decision, it will remain that way. There are no specific gambling laws and authorities that we can point to.
Instead, it is left to each state and its respective government to set its own legislation on online gambling in the territory. So, it is needless to say that it is essential for the country to adopt clear federal legislation to have much better control over the vast online gambling market.
All things considered, it is challenging to understand whether any activity should be regarded as legal or illegal according to the regulations in the Indian gaming market.
The local gambling regulations in India partially cover online gambling activities. Several states, such as Sikkim, which introduced the Sikkim Online Gambling Act of 2008, have also introduced regulations that make online gaming legal. It controls and regulates the sector and imposes taxes on online gambling operators in the territory.
There are few amendments made to the Sikkim Online Gambling Act, so only operators in the state's territory will be permitted to apply for a licence.
Another state which regulates online gambling is Nagaland. It introduced the Online Games of Skill Act of 2016. As the name suggests, it covers the games of skill in the territory, and any operator offering these games can apply for a licence.
In 2021, Meghalaya state enacted the Meghalaya Regulation of Gaming Act which allows both online and land-based games of chance within the territory of the state after obtaining the respective licence.
Apart from these states, no one has specifically mentioned online gambling in their legislation so far.
As mentioned above, some gambling legislation in India excludes the games of skill from the prohibited list of games in the country. On the other hand, a game of chance is a game where there is a random outcome in which the punter chooses the bet amount for specific rounds.
In a game of skill, the person will also bet on the result, but they have more control over the outcome. To put it simply, the better the player's skill set, the bigger their chances of securing a win.
Deciding which ones fall under the category of games of chance or games of skill is not as straightforward as it may seem. Courts in India have had problems in telling which is which. Examples here include poker and rummy, and there have been various discussions about whether they are forms of legal gambling in India or not.
The fact that online gambling is a grey zone in India doesn’t mean that there are no penalties for people who indulge in such activities. Even though there hasn’t been a case in the country of punters being prosecuted for gambling online, people still need to respect provisions.
Under the Public Gaming Act, anyone found playing games of chance for money will face imprisonment for up to 1 month, and there will be a fine of 100 rupees. Additionally, anyone found in gaming rooms during any gambling activity will be presumed to have been there for gambling purposes.
As far as legal casino gambling in India goes, the situation is very complicated. There are various legislations in the country covering gambling in general. Every state has its own rules, regulating them as they see fit.
It is obvious that there is a need for a widespread agreement on what can be considered legal and what not. There is pressure for the government to introduce an updated gambling law, especially for online gambling. States like Sikkim, Meghalaya and Nagaland have proved that such legislations are possible, so the Indian government should pay closer attention.
It is necessary for the country to promote its citizens' economic and social welfare, so it seems like a good idea to regulate gambling better. Punters in the country register at online gambling sites from abroad, and not all of them are legal.
In case of fraud, no authority can help them out. If online gambling becomes legal, the government can reap the benefits of taxes, employment, etc. Until then, Indian punters will be doomed to several confusions about what is legal and what is not in terms of gambling.