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The legality of Online Gambling in India: Current Regulations and What’s Ahead

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Recent statistics show that around 40% of Indian adults have gambled at least once on online platforms. It’s not a secret that Indians are fond of gambling activities like card games and sports betting.

That is why it’s not surprising that casino operators see India as one of the countries with a huge potential for market growth. While online gambling activities are significantly growing in the country over the last few years, there are a lot of questions about its legal status.

Is it legal to place online bets in India? Can online casinos offer their services to Indian players? We’ll answer these questions and more in this article, so keep scrolling!

Current State of Online Gambling in India

The truth is that gambling on betting sites is still in the gray area in most parts of India. Before we dive in deeper, understand that gambling is regulated in the country, and the regulations in place are based on the Public Gaming Act of 1867. 

Since this is a law passed before the internet ever existed, it has no mention of online gambling. With this alone, online casino and betting activities are then considered neither legal nor illegal. 

India also has the Information Technology Act of 2000 which is used to regulate online activities in the country. However, this too has no mention of anything about online gambling. That’s why until today, the majority of the country can freely place their bets on offshore casinos and bookies.

Only the states of Sikkim, Nagaland, and Meghalaya have gaming laws and licensing regimes. Sikkim and Meghalaya have licensing authority for online casino gaming and sports betting. However, licensing doesn’t include the residents of their states.

Meanwhile, Nagaland has a licensing authority for online games categorized under mere skill. Only Sikkim has a licensing regime for games of skills and chance.

In 2020, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh imposed a ban on any online gambling and real money gaming activities. 

That said, even if national laws have nothing on online gambling, local governments can still come up with amendments concerning online gambling. They could prohibit or regulate the industry. 

In 2021, the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu moved towards a blanket ban on online gaming activities. Both states see this as a solution to the rising gambling problems within their territories.

However, the bans both states imposed didn’t last long. The High Courts had to strike down the amendments that prohibit online gaming because they deem these unconstitutional. 

The Karnataka High Court explains that the legislative action on online games of skill violates Article 14 of the Constitution on the ground of “manifest arbitrariness.”

“However, nothing in this judgment shall be construed to prevent appropriate legislation being brought about concerning the subject i.e; betting and gambling by the provisions of the constitution. 

“A writ of mandamus is issued restraining the respondents from interfering with online gaming business and allied activities of the petitioners,” the order said.

This is also basically what happened with Tamil Nadu. Kerala also had to go through the same thing. Still, these states are free to come up with legislation regarding online gambling. They just need to make sure that it won’t violate the Constitution. 

What Lies Ahead: To Ban or Not to Ban?

With the recent happenings surrounding online gaming legislation in the states mentioned earlier, India is still having a hard time deciding what is and isn’t gambling. 

It’s also hard to say whether more states will follow Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in attempting to prohibit online gaming. However, there are also reports that India is ready to embrace it.

Recently, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) announced that there is a legislation draft surrounding online gambling throughout India that’s ready to be reviewed. 

The drafted regulations are geared towards resolving the growing complaints of problematic gambling behaviors among minors.

Some of the measures included in the draft are mandatory customer enforcement complaint procedures, and the appointment of a chief compliance officer who will be coordinating with law enforcement and operators to ensure strict player verification will be implemented.

The regulator will also be responsible for checking the content of the games. Any content that violates the sovereignty and integrity of India will not be allowed. Some of the niches or subjects that this includes are violence, addiction, and sexual content.

Online gaming operators will also have to be registered with the IT ministry. Since this is still only a draft, the regulations are open for public input, so they can still be revised.

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