The question of the legality of online gambling in India is not a black-and-white matter. Owing to the federalised nature of India, the conservative nature of the Indian community as well as the snail’s pace at which laws are amended and changed to align with modern trends, the question of the legality of online gambling in India is difficult to answer with a simple yes or no answer.
To answer the question, is online gambling legal in India in the best possible way, we are going to start by unpacking the difference between gaming and gambling according to India law. In doing so, we will highlight the explicitly legalised as well as prohibited forms of gaming/gambling. Afterwards, we will touch on laws regarding online gambling as per the individual states and then the country at the federal level as a whole.
The Difference Between Online Gambling and Gaming Per Indian Law
Indian laws at the federal level explicitly distinguish between online gambling and gaming. Gaming according to the laws is an activity which requires a degree of skill. Gambling on the other hand is an activity which is purely based on chance (luck). Between the two, Indian laws permit gaming but prohibit gambling.
Owing to this, the federal government has banned any forms of advertisements that push prospective players to online gambling. The government states that such advertisements do not conform with the Consumer Protection Act 2019. In June 2022, the government issued an advisory to the media cautioning media houses and gaming operators from openly advertising online gambling activities.
The Legality of Online Gambling As Per State Laws
While at the federal level, the government tried to distinguish between online gambling and gaming hence in turn, come to the conclusion as to which of the two is permitted and which one is prohibited, things aren’t all black and white as to what constitutes skill and what constitutes chance. This in turn has created a grey area. Moreover, the only federal law that talks about gambling in all its forms is the Public Gambling Act 1867. Unfortunately, this old law hasn’t been amended to incorporate the emergence of online gambling platforms and games. The result therefore is that the question of the legality of online gambling in India solely rests with what individual States say in their area of jurisdiction.
The three states that have come with gambling-specific laws are Sikkim, Goa, and Daman. These states regulate online casino gaming as well as sports betting. These states however only allow their residents to engage in online gambling when playing at offshore sites albeit those that accept rupees as one of the supported currency options. Sikkim also has a state lottery that’s open to all residents who have attained the legal age of majority.
The states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have explicitly prohibited real money gaming and online gambling activities. Also set to join these states are Tamil Nadu and Karnataka which have all taken steps to impose blanket bans on all forms of online gaming activities.
The Future of Online Gambling in India
One thing that’s certain going into the future is that individual states better still the federal government has to come up with crystal clear and explicit laws that tackle the issue of online gambling legality in India. Coming up with such explicit laws will help the government, states, gaming operators as well as the players themselves. This is necessitated by the fact that everyone will know if they are permitted to engage in online gambling or not hence not engage in an activity which may borderline be illegal.
A ministerial statement from the Ministry of Electronics and IT which stated that the federal government is drafting legislation that concerns online gambling activities is a positive step. From the statement, it seems the Indian government is ready to embrace online gambling albeit strictly enforcing gambling laws. This is necessitated by the fact that strict player verification and the appointment of a compliance officer are some of the main issues covered in the draft legislation. The ministerial statement also said that gambling operators will need to be registered with the IT ministry, another positive for those who want online gambling to be legalised in the country at the federal level.
What to Look for When Settling at Online Casinos in India
For those folks who live in the states that have explicitly permitted online gambling, there are a few things to bear in mind before settling at the top Indian online casinos. The things to consider are as follows:
- How Reputable the Online Casino: It’s important and recommended to play at reputable online casinos. Reputable online casinos are those that are regulated by renowned gambling regulators. Moreover, reputable online casinos protect all the data shared by players through the use of industry-standard SSL bit encryption technology.
- Play at Offshore Sites: The laws in states where online gambling is permitted are explicit that folks should play at offshore sites. As such, players need to check and confirm that the online casino they are playing at is an offshore site before they deposit funds. Otherwise, they risk losing their money and having their account permanently banned if detected by the state authorities.
- Play at Casinos Accepting Rupees: The laws state that players should only play at casinos that accept rupees. As such, players should confirm this first before they register their accounts.
When it comes to the question, is online gambling legal in India, there isn’t any simple yes or no answer. Rather, the legality of online gambling lies in a grey area. This is necessitated by the fact that there isn’t any specific and explicit federal law that expressly permits or prohibits online gambling. The current law that talks about gambling is the Public Gambling Act of 1867 which hasn’t been amended to cover the emergence of online gambling hence it’s quiet on that front. Everything has solely been placed in the hands of state governments to either permit or prohibit online gambling. This in turn disadvantages players in the country as some in one jurisdiction may gamble online freely while others can’t. There is thus a need to correct this by coming up with country-specific laws that talk about online gambling.