On this page, we will explore the subject of regulation and gambling laws in India, focus on existing legislation and how it can be interpreted.
Over one billion people live in India, and it is no surprise that there are plenty of them who enjoy gambling. Sports betting on cricket and horse racing, casino gambling and poker are very popular.
Despite its popularity, with some exceptions, gambling is prohibited in India. Much of the existing legislation related to gambling is outdated and confusing. This is especially valid for online gambling. In the end, it can be difficult to determine what is legal and what not in India.
Although there have been quite some debates in the region they have not led to much progress when it comes to clarity. There is gambling legislation at federal and state level, which makes it even more confusing.
General Gambling Laws in India
The Public Gaming Act is the main piece of legislation related to gambling in India. It was issued in 1867 and was valid for the states under British control, but later on, it incorporated the whole country. Despite being quite old the law is still in place.
Another important act is the Public Gaming Act which made it legal to run and visit gambling venues. But the act does not give a definition of gambling, which makes it hard to determine if betting on horse races or cricket is considered illegal or not. For games which are skill based, it can be argued that they are not gambling as they do not rely on pure chance.
However, the Constitution of India gives a definition of gambling which is as follows: “…gambling includes any activity or undertaking whose determination is controlled or influenced by chance or accident or any activity or undertaking which is entered into or undertaken with consciousness of the risk of winning or losing (eg, prize competitions, a wagering contract)…”
This definition is not completely clear, but it does suggest that any activity in which you risk money in order to win money is gambling. This means that everything from sports betting, to casino games and poker is illegal. There are other gambling laws in India which contradict this definition to some extent.
- Horse Racing Betting In India – Horse races regularly attract large audiences, because the sport has long been popular in India. There are several racecourses where bookmakers offer their services legally. Horse race betting is legal in India, on a state level which contradicts with the overall definition of gambling. Perhaps this is the case because horse racing would not have the same appeal if betting was not allowed.
- Casino Gambling in India – Casino gambling has been legalized in two states – Goa and Sikkim. In Goa, slot machines were allowed first in hotels and then casinos were fully legalized. There are several casinos on land in Goa and a number of cruise ship casinos. The gambling and casinos have partially helped Goa become a popular tourist spot. Sikkim legalized casinos next and currently there are two land-based casinos. The state is working to help the legalization of online gambling.
- Lotteries in India – Lotteries are also not prohibited in India. This is even more of a contradiction to the laws as lotteries are the ultimate game of chance. However, there is a Lotteries Act, which regulates the operations of the lotteries. The Act gives the state the right to authorize lotteries and specifies that a maximum one draw per week was to be allowed, which is not enforced too rigidly.
Online Gambling in India
The Public Gaming Act of 1867 naturally makes no reference to online gambling as the internet was not even invented back then. But still according to the wording and terms of this Act, the gambling laws in India state that running a gambling website in India is illegal.
There is a more recent legislation which is considered to relate to online betting and gaming and this is the Information Technology Act of 2000. Although there is no specific mention of online gambling being illegal there are provisions for various offenses relating to the online activity. However, it empowers the Indian government to block foreign websites.
The government has blocked several betting and gaming sites, by instructing the Internet Service Providers, but there is no record of which the sites were and how effective this measure has been.
There are two states that have legislation related specifically to online gambling – Maharashtra, where it is completely prohibited and Sikkim, where the government issues licenses to online gambling operators within the state. Licensing is a notable step forward for regulating gambling in India.
What You Need to Know about Online Gambling in India
As already mentioned the gambling laws in India relating to online gambling sites in India is unclear. The sites which welcome Indian customers are operated overseas and are not necessarily governed by Indian law.
With the exception of Maharashtra, there are no laws which clearly prohibit Indian residents to gamble online. However, there is no information about an Indian who has been prosecuted for gambling online.
Because of the confusing laws we cannot confirm you can legally gamble online in India. But if you use a reputable and trustworthy site, which accepts Indian customers, we believe there is no reason to worry.
However, keep in mind that the Exchange Management Act (FEMA) 1999 does regulate the exchange of foreign currencies in India. If you make deposits to a gambling site in a currency other than rupees, this can be considered a foreign exchange.
This makes it difficult for Indians to deposit at the site from the bank with a debit or credit card. A possible alternative is to use an e-wallet like Skrill or Neteller.
Indian Online Gambling Legislation is Changing
As mentioned before the state of Sikkim is issuing licenses for online gambling and two years ago it has licensed Future Gaming Solutions Private Limited to legally offer real-money online betting and gaming services.
There are more signs that in the coming years the gambling legislation of the gambling laws in India will be updated and it will probably provide a clearer idea of what is legal and what is not
*Please note that the information stated here is our own opinion and interpretation. It is completely accurate but it should not be considered a legal advice.