In India, online betting’s legal status can be a bit confusing. While there aren’t any national laws stopping it, each state can choose if they want to set rules about it. So, while online betting is generally legal across the country, a few states have chosen to make their own rules against it.
Betting Laws in India
In India, the landscape of betting is clouded with a blend of old and new rules. At the core lies the Public Gambling Act of 1867. As ancient as it sounds, this act struggles to navigate the intricate waters of the digital world, especially concerning online gambling.
This very disparity spurred a vital recommendation. Come the 14th of November, a specialized inter-ministerial task force advocated for contemporary central legislation. This legislation’s primary goal? To oversee and regulate both traditional gambling and its online counterpart in India.
Is Online Gambling Legal In Your State?
When it comes to online gambling in India, the picture is a mosaic of varied regulations. Some states take a lenient stance, while others assert a firm ban on online gambling. But how does this landscape translate to your state?
States Aligned with the Public Gambling Act:
- Madhya Pradesh
- Uttar Pradesh
States with Bespoke Online Gaming Laws:
- Sikkim: Under the Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Act, 2008, Sikkim has greenlit digital casinos that provide games like blackjack. However, these games are only accessible via intranet terminals. Sports betting, too, has found its footing here but with similar intranet-based restrictions;
- Meghalaya: The Meghalaya Regulation of Gaming Act, 2021 allows both brick-and-mortar and online casinos. Besides, horse betting enthusiasts can rejoice, given it’s permissible once appropriately licensed;
- Nagaland: Taking a specific stance, Nagaland, through its 2016 Act, champions poker as a “game of skill”.
Of interest, only Nagaland and Meghalaya have ventured into creating explicit laws governing “games of skill”. On the fantasy betting frontier, although largely unregulated across India, Nagaland and Meghalaya again stand out by possessing regulations and even provisions for licensing fantasy league betting.
Yet, not all states embrace online gambling. Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, and Assam have stamped an outright ban on betting within fantasy sports leagues.
States with Explicit Bans:
- Telangana: 2017 witnessed Telangana taking a firm stand against all online gaming and gambling through an amendment in The Telangana Gaming Act;
- Karnataka: A 2021 amendment to the Karnataka Police Act, 1963, banned all online games. However, this was short-lived, with the Karnataka High Court reversing the decision in 2022;
- Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu: While these states passed laws banning all online games, swift legal challenges led to overturning these laws, particularly for games of skill.
What’s the Difference Between Online Gaming and Gambling?
The digital realm is abuzz with both online gaming and online gambling. But do these terms mean the same thing? Not quite, especially when the law enters the fray.
Vasundhara Shanker, an esteemed lawyer and the Managing Partner at Verum Legal provides clarity on this matter, drawing from her extensive experience with gaming companies and payment systems.
So, here’s the breakdown:
- Online Gaming: It predominantly revolves around skill. An online game that demands mastery or a level of expertise is classified as online gaming. The essential differentiator? Skill;
- Online Gambling: This is where chance plays a pivotal role. If an online activity doesn’t primarily hinge on skill but leans more on the unpredictability of outcome, it’s considered online gambling.
However, a grey area persists. The law remains ambiguous about the specific games encompassed under these definitions. Further complicating the scene, there’s an absence of a unified list of banned games. An essential nuance to understand here is the stakes. When we discuss ‘gaming’, it implies gaming for tangible stakes, usually money. As Shanker points out, the exchange of money becomes a critical factor in determining whether online gaming activities fall under gambling regulations or not.
Horse Race Betting vs. Cricket
In India, the fervor for sports betting, particularly for horse racing and cricket, is palpable. But what differentiates these two iconic sports in terms of legality and betting options?
Horse Race Betting:
- Legality: Horse betting stands tall, having been granted legal status in India. Its roots, embedded deep within Indian culture, stretch back to the British colonial era, making it a well-loved and celebrated form of wagering;
- Options Range: In the wake of its popularity, many online casinos in India have broadened their horizons to feature an array of horse racing events and lotteries. With its increasing demand, it’s no surprise that the list of betting options keeps expanding;
- Historical Essence: The affection for horse racing is far from novel. The Indian populace’s admiration for this sport dates back to the early days of British rule, evolving over time into the renowned activity it is today.
- Legality in Online Sphere: Cricket, the heart and soul of Indian sports, is open to online betting, but with nuances. You can revel in online sports betting for exhilarating tournaments like the Indian Premier League (IPL) but only in areas where gambling finds legal endorsement;
- Bookmaker Matters: For cricket aficionados eager to place bets, the route is clear: opt for licensed online casinos sanctioned by the Indian government. If there’s no shadow of a ban over a specific betting site, you’re good to go. Dive into the thrills of betting on cricket or any other sport they host;
- Caution is the Key: Sports betting, especially cricket betting, treads on thin ice in India. Given the intricate legal landscape, prudence is paramount. Refrain from ventures in unauthorized venues or shady casinos. Your money, and peace of mind, are too precious to risk.
The path to legalizing online betting in India seems to be marred by a tapestry of legislative actions and reactions. With states like Tamil Nadu taking strict stances, the future of online gambling remains a topic of intense debate.
- Recent Developments in Tamil Nadu: On 26 September 2022, the Tamil Nadu state government rolled out an ordinance, putting a blanket ban on all online games, encompassing popular ones like rummy and poker. But the narrative didn’t stop there; a mere three weeks later, they put forth a bill as a substitute for the ordinance;
- Challenging the Ordinance: The All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) didn’t hold back, stepping forth to challenge the ordinance, deeming it as ‘unconstitutional.’ On approaching AIGF, they expressed their concerns quite vocally;
- The Next Course of Action: Landers emphasized the inherent difference between games of skill, like rummy and poker, and other forms of gambling. With the Tamil Nadu government holding back the ordinance’s enforcement, the air is rife with speculation.
Read about A Simple Guide to Betting Exchanges in India