Updated: Nov 22, 2021
Gamble is a term used for betting which includes taking chance, risk, and venturing with one’s money. With the rising popularity of events like the Indian Premier League, gambling manages to make appearances beyond the casinos and has turned into a successful business strategy. However, understanding and following the Indian laws is a little confusing. Most laws governing are obsolete specially, after the outburst of the pandemic when gambling has gone online.
The Public Gambling Act,1867 is the governing statute for gambling laws in India ,which allows every state to take care of their own gambling laws and punishes for running, being in charge(a fine of up to 200rs or imprisonment up to 3 months) or visiting gambling houses(a fine of 100 Rupees or imprisonment up to 1 month). Gambling has been defined in the Entry 34 of List II, under the Seventh Seven of the Constitution of India,1950 as ”... gambling includes any activity or undertaking whose determination is controlled or influenced by chance or activity or undertaking which is entered into or undertaken with consciousness of the risk of winning or losing ...”.
The Indian laws classify games into two broad categories :
1. Game of skill: A game where the outcome is determined by a mental or physical skill. Examples, poker, rummy, mahjong, contract bridge.
2. Game of chance: One where the outcome is strongly influenced by some random device such as dice, tops, cards or balls with numbers.
Hence, the Section 12 of the Act states that “Act not to apply to certain games. Nothing in the foregoing provisions of this Act contained shall be held to apply to any game of mere skill wherever played.” This clearly explains why most of the betting that take place in sports are kept away from penalties.
In contrast, a few games such as horse betting and lotteries are legal in India being the game of skill and game of chance respectively even when fixing is predicted in both. But, the Lotteries (Regulation) Act was passed in 1998 to keep a check on lotteries.
The State governments have the freedom to legalize gambling at their choice as clearly stated in the Seventh Schedule Entry 34 List II of the Constitution of India, 1950. The Central government has no say and cannot question the decisions of the state governments for the same. With regard to casino gambling, only two states have legalised the operation of casinos - Goa and Sikkim. Also, Daman has allowed gambling at casinos too.
With restrictions imposed on travelling due to the COVID-19 situation, gambling has gone online and The Public Gambling Act, 1867 is silent upon it. However, the government takes help from the Information Technology Act,2000 to set up firewalls in order to protect its people from any scam or fraudulent acts. The Sikkim and Maharashtra governments have introduced the Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Act, 2008 which came into force from 1 July 2009, to curb the practice of online gambling.
Maharashtra prevention of gambling Act , 1887.
In October 2014, the Sikkim government gave license to the first online gambling operator –
Future Gaming Solutions Pvt., Ltd. which is exclusive to the state itself.
Effects of legalization
Since most gambling sites operate by accepting currencies other than rupees which itself becomes foreign exchange currency and can be covered under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA),1999. Making laws for legalising gambling can help in preventing the flow of black money as all activities will be watched and hopefully conducted lawfully.
Betting, casino gambling or even online gaming could attract a lot of people which can generate a lot of revenue for the country’s economy along with additional profits. This revenue can be used for better causes such as the union budget and even to avoid borrowing from abroad.
It can act as a tourism attraction ,for example, Daman is soon rising towards becoming a popular tourism attraction because of its casinos. Similarly, online gaming apps based on games like rummy, flush(teen patti) , etc. could normalise gambling and even pay off well to a lot of people.
Betting of money or assets can be dangerous to one’s life as it involves a lot of risk and could even deprive the bettor of basic means of survival too.
Google play store removed the Paytm app by stating that such unregulated gambling applications facilitate online betting. The gateway was considered unsafe as its further lead to external websites which offered participation to paid tournament to win cash prizes or real money.
All in all, gambling is more of a taboo in India than a status symbol so before legalizing it, light should be thrown on what it exactly is and its purpose. However, it can be great investment idea and revenue generation strategy but, boundaries need to be strictly drawn as to what is permitted and restricted. This could be of real help to the police and could be a step towards social progress as it is still looked up as a western concept . So, laws in support of gamble could in some way be beneficial for the people, especially the youth as it discourages orthodox notions. Gamble could be recognized as games requiring skills along with mere chance and a respectable employment hub, when challenging times have shrunk the job market.
Conversely, betting on athletes or games openly invites rigging and match-fixing which is not good for the ethics of the games and is morally incorrect.
In my opinion , each state should legalise it but impose fair restrictions to avoid the “mafia culture” and focus heavily on implementation of laws if , drafted as such professions usually associated with drugs and human trafficking. Other relevant statutes and civil conduct should be abided by. Most importantly, the environment of all states should be kept in mind, all kinds of cultural clashes should be avoided as it could be the most common issue raised. Online gambling should be the start, later opening up to traditional casinos and gaming spaces, it can help people familiarise with it first and later get involved completely.
Reforms regarding the same are much required and are being worked upon, the industry has good days to see the only concern would be the response and the state authorities know what the best is because at the end it is their responsibility to maintain law and order.