Gambling Laws and Regulations In India
The general consensus by millions of Indians is that gambling is banned throughout the country. If you ask them to share information about the gambling laws and regulations in India, they will not be in a position to do so because a lot of them don’t know where to find information relating to gambling laws and regulations.
Some of them know where to look but find it too time-consuming and confusing to read legal jargon and interpret what it means for them. Thus they are content to accept the general consensus that gambling is banned in India and any form of gambling that takes place is illegal gambling.
BettingGuru wanted to bring more light to gambling laws and regulations in India, so our team of experts has researched and studied Indian gambling laws and simplified them into modern day language that makes it easy for everybody to understand them clearly.
Current State Of Gambling Legislation in India
The current state of gambling legislation in India is archaic to say the least. Gambling legislation is outdated in India and is in urgent need of an overhaul. The reason most Indians believe that gambling is illegal in India is because you will not find any casinos or gambling houses in the country with the exception of three states.
Goa, Sikkim and Daman are the three states in India to have a legalized casino industry. Sikkim and Daman are very small states and the average Indian on the street may not even list them as states.
Goa on the other hand is one of the most popular states in India and has a thriving land based and offshore casino industry. However, the state government is Goa has been under pressure for the last few years to shut down the gambling industry and recently yielded to some of that pressure by not allowing locals to enter these casinos from Feb 2020.
The Indian gambling industry is governed by The Public Gambling Act of 1867 and pro-gambling groups are pushing for legislators to change this law. The Information Technology Act 2000 regulates online websites in India but does not specifically use the word gambling or betting in its list of prohibited sites.
The Public Gambling Act of 1867
The Public Gambling Act of 1867 prevents casinos and gambling houses from operating in India. If a company or a business if found violating this law, they will be subject to a fine of ₹200 or go to prison for a period of 3 months.
The law is also applicable to players who visit these illegal gambling establishments. If they are found inside these illegal establishments, they will be subject to a fine of ₹100 or face prison for a period of 1 month.
Gambling advocates have tried for years to get the central government to review the Public Gambling Act of 1867 and amend it so that it is appropriate for the times that we now live in. However, legislators have been reluctant to review this gambling act and make changes for a number of reasons.
The most sensitive reason for not meddling with the Public Gambling Act of 1867 is because gambling is considered taboo in India and offensive to multiple religions. Since India is a very religious nation, the ruling party wants to make sure that it does not offend the religious feelings of millions of Indians as it could end up hurting their vote bank.
Some of the other reasons for sticking with the Public Gambling Act of 1867 include considering gambling a social evil and forbidding players to engage with games of chance.
Games of Skill vs. Games of Chance
The Public Gambling Act of 1867 prohibits games of chance from taking place because games of chance are based on luck. Games of skill, on the other hand, are allowed as these are based on the mental faculties and physical abilities of the players involved.
So a game of cricket can take place in front of thousands of cricket fans and be broadcasted to millions at home because it is ruled a game of skill. A game of rummy or poker on the other hand cannot be played for money as the law considers card games as games of chance i.e. based purely on luck.
During the last few years, there has been a special push by a number of groups like the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) to educate legislators on the differences between games of skill and games of chance. The game of poker has been used as an example to prove that it is a mind sport just like the game of chess.
While the campaign to push for certain games like poker to be reclassified as a game of skill has gained momentum, it has not brought about any results. Legislators are more open to the possibility today but are hesitant to pull the trigger and legalize gambling due to a potential backlash.
While the Public Gambling Act of 1867 governs gambling throughout the country, each state has the authority to form their own legislation and legalize gambling. This is why Goa, Daman and Sikkim have a legalized gambling market.
There are a number of states including Mumbai and Kerala who are considering legalize gambling in their respective states. State governments have realized that legalizing gambling would create a very lucrative industry as it would generate employment opportunities, bring in huge financial investment, increase tourism numbers and provide a steady stream of gambling taxes for the state coffers.
Nagaland, a small state in the north-east of India decided that it would pass a new law that would allow online games to be legalized. Bettors are allowed to place bets on online casino games as long as they fall under the category of games of skills. The Nagaland Prohibition of Gaming and Promotion and Regulation of Online Games of Skill Act, 2016 (Gaming Act) updated the terms and conditions for games of skill and games of chance – thereby opening a new stream of revenue in the state.
For land based or online gambling to spread throughout India, it will require one of the four big states to make a decision and pave the way for the rest of India. Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Delhi have toyed with the idea but have put it on the back burner for now.
Since land based gambling is banned throughout India with a few exceptions, most Indians automatically assume that online gambling is also banned. This is not true and in effect, the online gambling industry in India is growing at a rapid pace with every passing year. There are a number of offshore iGaming operators who have entered the Indian market and are offering a variety of online betting services which include online casino games, lottery games, sports betting, e-sports, daily fantasy sports and live dealer casino games.
The key point is, that it is not illegal to register and place bets at these online gaming websites as long as they are not based in India. Just remember that there are a lot of good online casinos out there but there are a lot of bad casinos out there as well. By bad, we mean unscrupulous casinos that prey on players and take advantage of them.
BettingGuru has a great list of online casino websites that are safe for Indian players. Our team has reviewed these sites and use strict selection criteria to ensure that we offer safe and secure online casino recommendations to our Indian players.
The Information Technology Act, 2000
The Information Technology Act 2000 is a central act that governs all online activities in India. The Act does not specifically use the word gambling or betting and hence a number of iGaming providers have entered the market due to the language used in the Act. The language allows both pro-gambling and anti-gambling groups to interpret this law based on their own assumptions.
The Supreme Court was approached to make a decision and bring clarity to the language used in the ACT but the Court decided to pass on the matter. So the decision is now left to individual states to determine whether they want to allow online casino games and betting or not.
The state of Maharashtra took the decision to pass its own gambling legislation to clear things up. The “Bombay Wager Act” was passed and it specifically stated that online gambling is an offense in the state.
If a company is caught offering online gambling services in India, they will slapped with a fine of 90,000 rupees. This rule has been in place since 2009.
Offshore Gaming Sites Flourishing
There are a number of reputed and licensed online gambling sites currently catering to the Indian market. BettingGuru features the best of these online casino sites as they are legal and safe for Indian bettors to play at. This is because we list only offshore casino sites as they are not based in India. We look for offshore casinos and sportsbooks that are licensed by reputed regulators like the UK Gambling Commission and the Malta Gaming Authority.
You will not find any online casinos or sportsbooks licensed by an Indian gaming regulator as none exists. If you find a site claiming to be licensed by an Indian gaming regulator, you need to be careful as it is a false claim.
BettingGuru’s list of recommend online casinos allows Indian bettors to make their deposits and withdrawals in Indian rupees (INR) in keeping with the Foreign Exchange Management Act 1999. This ensures that players do not violate any laws either on the gaming front or the foreign currency front.
The Legal Status For Games Like Poker And Rummy
Since each individual state has the option to legalize or ban land based and online gambling, there is some confusion as to what games are allowed and which states allow them. Some of the common questions of Indian players include: is rummy legal in India, is cricket betting legal in India, is poker legal in India, is sports betting legal in India and are online casino games legal in India.
We decided to put together a quick overview to help you understand what games you can play and in which states you can play them:
- Casino games are allowed in Goa, Daman, Sikkim
- Poker is permitted in Karnataka, West Bengal, Nagaland
- Fantasy sports betting is permitted in most states as they are viewed as games of skill
- Lottery is banned in most states but a few states have a state wide lottery such as Sikkim. Punjab has a licensed online lottery.
Online casino games and online sports betting are permitted as long as players are betting at offshore casinos who allow players to deposit and withdraw funds in Indian rupees.
A New Online Gambling Bill on the Horizon
While India’s gambling laws have largely remained unchanged for some time, a new gambling bill was introduced in April 2022 that will help to regulate the online gambling industry. Over the past few years, the number of Indian players signing up to offshore accounts has multiplied, and the government are keen to update its laws to protect players.
The bill was introduced by MP Dean Kuriakose, a member of the Lok Sabha. His idea is to introduce regulations that prevent unlicensed gambling platforms from taking advantage of players, regulating both the real money gambling and real money gaming markets. While the bill no doubt has some positives, it could also negatively affect gamblers.
Some of the benefits of the bill include ensuring that all sites offer responsible gambling tools, establishing strict marketing guidelines, proving fairness, and paying proper tax rates. This will help to make the industry safer while also bringing new jobs for Indian people and ensuring that money spent on gambling stays within the country.
Critics of the bill have stated that it needs more work to separate online gambling and gaming. In addition, the bill would make playing at offshore gambling platforms illegal, potentially putting players at risk for using them. This can have the effect of punishing players rather than the platforms themselves, while effective regulations should always focus on providing a safe and legal alternative first.
It’s important to note that this bill hasn’t passed yet, but it shows that the Indian government is at least considering the process of full online gambling regulation. There’s no way to know how the future of Indian gambling will look, but hopefully, the MPs will look to other countries that have successfully implemented safe and legal gambling when signing any bills into law.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Information Technology Act 2000 does not have the words gambling or betting included when it comes to prohibiting internet activities. Hence, offshore casinos have used this ambiguous language to launch online casino and sports betting services for the Indian market. Players who bet at these offshore casinos are not breaking the law or committing a crime.
There is a huge push at state level and central level to get legislators to rethink archaic laws such as the Public Gambling Act of 1867 and the Information Technology Act 2000. Gambling advocates are pushing for both land based and online gambling to be legalized. The latest push came from MP Shashi Tharoor in 2018 when he introduced the Sports (Online Gaming & Prevention of Fraud) Bill, 2018 to the Lok Sabha.
You do not need to pay any taxes to the online casino or sportsbook. However, you will have to pay taxes on your income and it will be up to you to declare and file your taxes accordingly. Do note that some payment providers like PayPal will be without a GST fee when doing your transfer.
Gambling for money is prohibited in India and the few states that permit gambling allow the activity to be done only at licensed premises. So technically you should not play a real money poker game in India. However, a lot of families play poker and bingo for small stakes to pass their time and do not get in trouble with the law. If you start hosting regular real money poker games and inviting people apart from the members who reside in your house, you could end up getting in trouble with the law.
This will depend upon the terms and conditions followed by each sportsbook. There are limits in place as some sites have reported suspicious activity when large sums of cash where bet on certain cricket games. They found that bookies in India were placing bets on behalf of hundreds of bettors from one account. The minimum amount can be from 100 to 500 rupees while the max amount can go up to 50,000 to 100,000 rupees.