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Indian Gambling Regulations

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Gambling is a popular game in India both in online and offline mode. It has not only attracted a large number of people but has also boosted India’s economy. There are different types of online casino games available in India like poker, slots, lotteries, etc. 

However, there are restrictions on online gambling in several places in India. Furthermore, if someone violates the rules laid down by the government, then the individual has to pay severe consequences. In this blog, you will learn about the different online gambling rules in India and other details associated with it. 

Gambling Rules in India

The following are some important online gambling rules in India laid out by the government of India:

The Public Gaming Act of 1867 is the central law of India that handles gambling of all forms including digital casinos, online gambling etc. Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana have adopted this online gambling act in India.

Under the 7th Schedule of India’s Constitution, each state has the liberty to make laws regarding gambling and betting.

Furthermore, other states like Sikkim, Meghalaya and Nagaland have implemented gaming laws and a licensing regime for online gambling.

Laws Governing Online Gambling in India as of 2023

Presently, in India, there are no clear laws concerning online gambling. The notable case of M/s Gaussian Networks Pvt. Ltd. v. Monica Lakhanpal and the State of NCT stated that skill-based games with stakes are not considered gambling. However, the games that solely attract players with prize money are deemed illegal. 

Several states, including Telangana, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka, have implemented bans on online gambling. The Madras High Court has recently brought changes in the amendments related to playing rummy and poker games online. This decision has sparked outrage among the players in online gambling in India.

Apart from state-level regulations, national laws such as the Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2022, Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preference Regulations 2010, Foreign Exchange Management Act 1999, The Prize Competition Act 1955,  and the Cable Television Network Rules 1994 also impose restrictions on gambling promotion.

The government aims to establish comprehensive legislation to regulate gambling in India to prevent financial losses and generate taxable revenue. Many foreign investors are showing interest in India's gambling market. The online gambling rules in India are complicated and keep on changing.

Rules for Different Types of Gambling in India

The following section highlights the rules for different types of gambling in India:

Casino

Most gaming laws generally prohibit casino products like table games, slots, etc. due to their reliance on chance. However, there are exceptions in certain regions. There are various five-star hotels in Goa that allow electronic amusement games or slot machines through a licensing system. Moreover, online table games are also allowed on offshore vessels with a licence. 

Sikkim follows a similar approach by allowing casino games like roulette and blackjack in five-star hotels. These games can be offered within Sikkim through the intranet. Through a licensing system, Meghalaya regulates games of chance, including slots, wheel of fortune,  roulette, keno, etc. Moreover, these games can also be offered through intranet terminals within Meghalaya. 

Poker

Certain states and courts, such as West Bengal, considers poker a skill-based game, exempting it from gambling definitions. The High Courts in these states assert that playing poker should not lead to legal issues. However, this recognition often applies to specific poker formats like Texas Hold'em and Omaha Hold'em. 

Nagaland and Meghalaya also explicitly classify poker as a game of skill. The Gujarat High Court views poker as chance-based, but this decision is currently under appeal. According to the online gambling rules of Tamil Nadu, there is a prohibition to play poker for stakes.

Betting

Betting is subject to gaming laws, which restrict individuals from participating in games of chance. The following highlights the different betting rules in India:

Horse Race Betting

When it comes to horse race betting, the Supreme Court deems it a skill game, exempting it from standard Gaming Laws. However, the legality of such exemptions is subject to change, aligning with the conditions of Gaming Laws. To engage in online horse race betting, adherence to both gaming laws and turf club conditions is essential. Some states like West Bengal, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Telangana have permitted online horse race betting. However, in July 2020, Bangalore Turf Club did not receive permission as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) questioning the legality of gambling was filed in the Karnataka High Court. Conversely, The Royal Calcutta Turf Club in West Bengal faced no challenges regarding online betting.

Sports Betting

The Supreme Court is yet to decide if sports betting is a skill game in the case of Geeta Rani v. Union of India (“Sports Betting Case”). As of the last listing in October 2019, the case is yet to receive a comprehensive hearing. The resolution of this case carries significant implications for the future of sports betting regulations in the country. 

Lotteries

Lottery laws in India provide a framework for the operation of specific licensed private lotteries. Additionally, they empower state governments to conduct lotteries, subject to established regulations. Notably, government lotteries fall under the legislative domain of the central government, obliging state governments to adhere to the stipulations outlined in Lottery Laws. 

States can appoint private entities to assist in running state lotteries. Some states like Bihar and Madhya Pradesh have banned lotteries completely. Some other states permit only not-for-profit lotteries under granted licences. Currently, approximately 13 state governments in India actively manage and operate lotteries.

Bingo

Most versions of bingo are in the form of lotteries or games of chance, making them restricted by many Gaming Laws. Additionally, consider the various regulations surrounding online gambling in India before participating in the bingo game.

Type of Online Games Which Requires Licence in India 

The following mentions the different types of licences which an individual needs to provide in India:

Casino

In Goa, Daman, Diu, and Sikkim, a licence is necessary to offer casino products in five-star hotels, available under the Goa Act and Sikkim Act. Goa also requires a licence for offshore casino products.

Poker

Since poker is a skill-based game there are no licensing regimes for this game in India. However, Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Sikkim mandate licences for online skill games. The TN Ordinance requires online game providers in Tamil Nadu to obtain a certificate of registration.

Betting

In many states, an individual can bet on online sports or horse races, without having a licence, according to the Lakshmanan Case. However, these licensing systems are also subject to change in many states under specific terms and conditions.

Lotteries

Lotteries in India are either state-organised or permitted under state government conditions. Lottery laws empower states to appoint individuals or corporations as distributors for government lotteries, restricting lottery sales to authorised entities.

Bingo

Players residing in Sikkim and Meghalaya require a licence to play bingo games in India. 

In conclusion, understanding the online gambling rules in India is crucial for both players and operators. Moreover, it is crucial to emphasise that the IT Act of 2000 regulates all gambling activities in India. This act restricts individuals from engaging in online gambling. Therefore, individuals involved in such activities may be subject to a fine of ₹1,00,000 or a potential imprisonment term of 5 years.

Moreover, the Government of India in January 2023, issued new rules to regulate online gambling, to create ‘self-regulatory’ bodies to oversee the sector. Therefore, it is essential for both the players and operators to remain updated with these new regulations.