India may be one of the most populous countries in the world, but they cannot seem to get anything done in regards to legal gambling regulations. The Law Commission of India convened last year to examine the gambling industry, including online casino gambling and sports betting. The Commission failed to reach any significant consensus, leaving the Indian-based gambling situation cloudy, but there are still gambling options through licensed offshore providers.
As things stand now, there are 3 federal laws that pertain to gambling in India. The first is the Public Gambling Act of 1867. This law deemed operating a gaming house illegal. By the law’s definition, a gaming house was a walled-in enclosure with cards, dice, counters or other gaming instruments used in games for money or other stakes of value. A 1976 amendment to the law changed the exact wording to any “house, room, tent, enclosure, space, vehicle, vessel or place.” While there is no mention of online gambling in the law (seeing as it was passed in the 19th century), some have tried to apply the term “vessel” to technology. However, the absence of online gambling in the law voids any type of enforcement online gambling industry.
The same can be said about the other 2 gambling laws—the Prize Competition Act (1955) and the Information Technology Act of 2000. The former deals with puzzle-based games where the prizes exceed amounts of 1,000 INR. Anti-gambling advocates have tried to apply loose wording to slot gambling, but again, there is no mention of online gambling. One would think that the Information Technology Act would mention online gambling, but this law is very broad and covers online activity, specifically geared towards malicious or offensive nature.
With these 3 laws being the status quo in India, it is surprising that the online gambling market has not taken off. However, state governments have not issued any gambling licenses. Well, except for 2 states: Sikkim and Goa. Sikkim is the first to launch a legal online casino in India. The online gambling initiative is the first progressive step towards gambling reform.
The Law Commission of India solicited the input of the public regarding legalizing gambling. After all, the gambling industry is present through the few brick-and-mortar establishments present in states with legal gambling and through licensed offshore gambling providers. By not having any sort of regulations on the industry as a whole, India is missing out on profits upwards of $60 billion, which translates to $2.6 billion for the government in tax revenue. Sikkim and Goa give authorities the chance to measure how the industry will perform, particularly Sikkim with their online casino platform, but it will likely take time for the government to take any sort of action.
This is not the first time gambling reform has been considered in India, and it will probably not be the last. A country that has the same gambling laws in place dating back all the way to 1867 is obviously a little behind the curve. The Commission has made no significant announcements regarding online gambling legalization, or at the very least, with casino gambling. Sports betting appears to be the gambling form gaining the most traction. India residents will have to remain with their legally licensed offshore providers for their online gambling needs until the government can reach an agreement on regulation and its implementation.