Betting Laws in India

If we look at the big picture, gambling is illegal in India. The Public Gambling Act of India, 1867, clearly states that gambling and running of public gambling houses are illegal. The law strictly prohibits such activities. However, there is confusion amongst people because betting can take place on various platforms and have different types.

We will discuss the different types of gambling and what are the restrictions imposed by the Indian government on each type later in this article. First, let’s look at the betting laws on different platforms, that is, offline and online.

Online Betting Laws

The law that governs websites in India is the Information Technology Act 2000. The law states that any website must not promote, take part in or show content related to gambling or money laundering. This prohibits the functioning of any Indian-originated gambling website. As interpreted by many, gambling and betting websites that are based outside of India can be used by Indian punters.

The lack of comprehensive laws regarding online betting websites, based outside of India and their use by Indians, is left to interpretation by the people. None of the laws prohibits or states any restrictions regarding the use of these websites. As the final decision-making power is delegated to the states, it is in the hands of the state government to regulate gambling. However, even in the states where gambling is illegal, there are no laws prohibiting citizens from visiting betting websites.

States like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, in the past two years, tried to impose a ban on online betting sites. However, the ban did not last for long and was eventually uplifted by the high court. The court reasoned that the game of skills (like Rummy) is not banned in the country and therefore, the ban on online gambling sites conflicts with the gambling act.

To phrase it correctly, online gambling is neither illegal nor legal in India.

Offline Betting Laws

Offline betting can be described as land-based gambling houses. The Public Gambling Act of 1867 strictly prohibits anyone in the country to operate or be a part of a public gambling house. The same law has left the power to the state government to construct their own gambling laws.

Three states of India, Daman, Goa and Sikkim, legally allow gambling through casinos. One can find some of the best and most luxurious casinos in these states. A majority of casinos and gambling houses in Goa are floating. Based on luxurious cruise ships, one can find a huge collection of games at casinos like Deltin Royale and Casino Carnival.

Sikkim has some of the best casinos in the country. There are a few state-owned lotteries available, which are also legal. Daman accommodates the biggest land-based casino in the country, Deltin Daman Casino, which houses more than 1000 gaming machines. 

If you are craving to visit a land-based or water-based casino in India, you can travel to any of these states. Also, avoid visiting gambling houses in any other state, where betting is strictly prohibited, as you can get penalised or can even go to jail. In the past few years, many such places have been raided and shut down.

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The Standpoint of Indian States on Betting

On the national level, gambling is considered illegal in India and is a punishable offence. However, the power to construct the rules and regulations regarding gambling in different states resides with the respective state governments. 

Below we have mentioned the prevailing gambling laws in some of the major states and union territories in India.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands

The islands have adopted the Public Gambling Act 1867 and have made strict laws for gambling. If anyone in the union territory is found to be a part of any public gambling house, is subject to penalty and jail time. 

Andhra Pradesh

The state follows the Andhra Pradesh Gaming Act of 1974, which allows state-run lotteries, horse race betting and rummy. Apart from the mentioned forms of betting, all other forms are strictly banned and are considered punishable, for anyone who is found to be a part of it. The punishment involves penalties or jail time, which is more strict for those running the platform and repeat offenders. 

Daman

Gambling in Daman is governed by the same legislation as that of Goa — the Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act of 1974. Gambling houses can be operated after obtaining the necessary permits and licences. 

Delhi

Gambling of any sort, other than horse race betting, is considered a crime in the capital of India under the Delhi Public Gambling Act of 1955. 

Goa

Gambling is legal in Goa and its establishment must follow the receiving of necessary licences and complete documentation with the governing authorities. The governing law in Goa is the Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act of 1976. The law states that prohibited games cannot be played or operated on its mainland. That is the reason why this state has many offshore floating casinos. 

Gujarat

The dry state of the country prohibits any sort of gambling and betting activities on its land under the Gujarat Prevention of Gambling Act of 1887. The state has strict rules for anyone who is found to be participating in such activities and it can land them in jail for a minimum period of three months. 

Himachal Pradesh

This northern state follows the Public Gambling Act of India, 1867, and has banned the game of chances from its land. People are not restricted to visit online betting sites. 

Jammu and Kashmir

As Muslim law prohibits gambling, having the majority of its population Muslim, the union territory prohibits any gambling activity, including online betting, under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Gambling Act 1977.

Karnataka

In 2021, Kerala imposed a complete ban on gambling in the state. This ban did not last for long and was challenged by the Madras High Court that the amendment made to the existing Kerala Gaming Act conflicts with the national law that legalises game of skills. As a result, the ban on online betting sites was removed, but land-based gaming houses remained a punishable offence. 

Lakshadweep, Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand

All the above states follow the national gambling law and banned games of chance on their land. Online betting sites can be an alternative if you are living in any of these states. 

Rajasthan

The Rajasthan Public Gaming Ordinance, 1949, prohibits any sort of gambling, including the game of skills. Anyone found to be a part of any such activities can be fined. 

Sikkim

According to the Sikkim Regulation of Gambling (Amendment) Act, 2005, obtaining a licence and permit is important to open a gambling house. Sikkim is the most liberal state when it comes to gambling. Almost all sorts of gambling are allowed; online, sports betting, paper lotteries and casino games. While other laws lack any distinct law regarding online gambling, Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Act, 2008 regulates and permits online betting sites in its state. 

Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu moved towards banning gambling from any platform, including cyberspace. Like Karnataka, the amendment to ban online betting sites was rejected by the Madras High Court.

West Bengal

Gambling is not entirely banned in West Bengal. The state is quite progressive when it comes to gambling and provides some legal ways to be a part of such activities. 

Timeline of Betting Regulations in India

When we talk about gambling, the majority of people think that it originated in Europe because of the European influence on modern-day gambling. However, this is not correct as there is a significant mention of gambling in Indian mythology, like Mahabharat. 

Let’s look at how gambling and its laws evolved in India.

15th Century

Even if the history of gambling goes way back to the 15th century, this was the century that saw the widespread creation of gambling houses in the country. Before this century animal fighting was one of the most persistent betting activities. In this century, many regulated gambling houses were established. 

18th Century

In the middle of this century, Cricket became one of the most popular sports in the country. The popularity gave rise to the betting market for the sport. 

19th Century

The Public Gambling Act of 1857, was established in this century. A significant European influence was seen, followed by British rule in India. The national gambling law was derived from the British gambling laws; the Betting Act of 1853 and the Gaming Act of 1845. 

Public gambling houses were declared illegal and cricket betting was banned throughout the country. 

While the laws established in the 19th century were the major changes that were made to the gambling situation in the country, there have been very few or nominal changes made to the existing laws. For instance, rummy, horse race betting and lotteries were made legal in some parts of the country. 

Laws Regarding the Types of Games

It has always been a controversial subject as to what type of games are considered illegal and are strictly banned by the law and what type of games can be played. The Public Gambling Act, 1867, states that the game of chances is illegal. However, the game of skills and betting on sports like horse racing is legal. 

Technically, every game is a combination of skills and chances. To categorise a game in one of these categories depends on which character dominates the other, is it the skill factor or the chance factor. For example, rummy is a game of both skill and chances, but its skill factor is dominating which categorises it as a game of skills. If we look at slots, it is a game of pure chances.

The discussion-able part of the law is that, even after banning the game of chances, lotteries are still legal in many parts of the country. Other games of chance are also allowed on the offshore platforms. While cricket betting is strictly prohibited, horse race betting is legal in the majority of states.

This has given rise to widespread confusion amongst punters in India.

Conclusion

The gambling laws in India are old and have very little to no amendments made towards them. With the emerging technology and lack of any definite statements in the legislation, many loopholes paved the way for multiple betting platforms.

As a result, one can visit these platforms, online casinos, anytime and anywhere, without breaking any laws. However, one must know that proceedings or profit made through gambling is taxable in India. Also, gambling or betting should be done in a controlled manner and responsibly. 

FAQs

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Aarna has prior experience as a poker dealer and holds a diploma in journalism from the University of Delhi. Aarna will gladly answer all your questions about gambling in India.

Last updated: 7/4/2022