In India, gambling laws are established on a federal and state level. With states, it is essentially whether the local government authorizes brick-and-mortar casinos or not. The federal government does not have any specific laws directed at online gambling.
That being said, there are several laws in place with loose wording that can be misconstrued to apply to online gambling. Our team of online gambling expert has drafted this page as a legal resource with information on the 3 main laws that come closest to gambling regulation.
There is also information on gambling laws on the state level. It is important to be aware of the legal situation regarding online gambling in your area before engaging in any online gambling activity. This keeps you safe online and within your legal limits regarding legal online casinos in India.
Understanding Gambling Laws In India
With gambling, the main argument is usually the same across multiple nations—whether gambling is considered a game of luck or a game of skill. This distinction is important in the eyes of lawmakers and has an effect on how legislation is drafted and implemented.
Pro-gambling advocates argue that most games should be considered games of skill, especially online poker and India sports betting. Casino games are little trickier to distinguish (i.e. slots, roulette, etc.), but there are some considered games of skill. In India, there is no real need for this distinction given the outdated nature of the laws in place.
However, in consideration of India legal horse betting, which was nationally considered a game of skill in 1996 by the Indian Supreme Court, many Indian laws on horse racing were then specially written for each territory and remain active to this day which is why bettors should become familiar with each regions' distinct differences.
Indian Federal Gambling Laws
There are 3 main laws to discuss regarding online gambling in India—the Public Gambling Act of 1867, Prize Competition Act (1955) and the Information Technology Act of 2000. Between these 3 laws, there is no specific mention of online gambling.
This makes the legal conversation redundant, but some have tried applying the vague language in each law to online gambling, even though the Internet did not even exist at the time 2 of them were enacted. In any case, each of the laws is explained below.
Public Gambling Act of 1867
The Public Gambling Act of 1867 made it illegal to operate or use a gaming house. A gaming house is described in the law as a walled-in enclosure with cards, dice, counters or any other instrument of gaming used with playing for money, wager or stake. Violators of this law were subject to a sentence of up to one month in jail. Since this law predates the Internet by over 100 years, one would think that there is no way it could be applied to online gambling.
However, a 1976 amendment changed the wording in the gaming house definition to any “house, room, tent, enclosure, space, vehicle, vessel or place”. This amendment led to debates over whether the Internet fell into the “vehicle” or “vessel” category. Despite this point of confusion, there is one clear definition that rules this law void when applied to most forms of gambling.
In Section 12, there is language stating that none of the provisions established in the law shall be applied to games of skill “wherever played”. This effectively cancels out all arguments that the law can be attached to online gambling. To be clear, there is no mention of online gambling whatsoever.
Prize Competition Act (1955)
The Prize Competition Act was passed to address a specific facet of gambling. The act bans prize competitions where the prizes reach upwards of 1,000 rupees per month. There has been some debate over whether this law applies to any prize competition, i.e. gambling, but the definition laid out in the original language should be enough to dispel any confusion.
Per the law, prize competition is defined as a puzzle-based game utilizing the “building up, arrangement, combination or permutation of letters, words or figures.” Now, the inclusion of “figures” could loosely be applied to slots, but the lack of specific mention of online gambling rules this law as illegitimate in that sense.
The Information Technology Act of 2000
The Information Technology Act of 2000 is more of a blanket law attempting to cover all aspects of online activity in India. While there is no mention of online gambling, a specific passage has fueled speculation as to its applicability to the industry.
The passage in question discusses the transmission of messages through electronic means, messages that come across as offensive or menacing. The passage reads more as an anti-bullying clause more than anything else, but the Bombay High Court ruled that the law can be applied to content published online. Does gambling language come across as malicious?
There is an “etc.” in the clause, which some have tried to include online gambling in, but the vague placeholder is not enough to merit any sort of enforcement. Out of the 3 laws in place, this one is the farthest reach regarding online gambling regulation.
Indian State Laws Regarding Horse Race Betting and Race Course Licensing
Horse racing is a popular public entertainment activity in India and betting on the sport is considered a game of skill in the eyes of the Indian Supreme Court. Therefore, nearly every state within India has horse race betting exceptions within their gambling laws. Each individual territory within India was given a choice either adopted the central model for India's horse race betting law or retain their own state's statute on the matter.
Indian State Laws Regarding Online Gambling
Indian states have the power to authorize brick-and-mortar gambling should they choose to do so. So far, only 2 states have gone forth with any such legislation—Goa and Sikkim. Sikkim made headlines in 2008 with the Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Act, allowing licensees to offer online video poker, baccarat, roulette, blackjack, and sports betting.
As of now, any Indian-based online casino licensed in Sikkim would only be able to offer services to Sikkim residents. Other states would first have to pass legislation allowing for Indian-based online gambling for licensees to extend their range. Even though the law was passed in 2008, it took several years for any licenses to be granted.
The first official license went to Future Gaming Solutions Private Limited. Sikkim is the most progressive state by far regarding gambling legislation. While other states may not have authorized land-based or online casinos based in India, there are no laws against betting with a legally licensed offshore operator.
Financial Laws Governing Online Gambling
Players from India may find some difficulties with online gambling transactions due to the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA). The act was passed in 1999 to mitigate the exchange of foreign currencies. If an online gambling operator does not accept rupees, they will often feature a currency exchange service.
However, this could technically be considered an exchange of foreign currency, which is covered by the act. India online gamblers have other online casino deposit options like eWallets or cryptocurrencies that are not covered by FEMA. Most online brands accept Indian rupees as a viable form of currency, making gambling for players from India a streamlined process.
Satta Matka - A Transitioned Tradition
Satta Matka is an old form of gambling that began back in the 1970s. The game was created by Ratan Khatri and was popular up until the 90's before it became illegal. It is a lottery style game consisting of selecting 3 random numbers ranging between 0-9. Another set of random numbers is randomly selected.
Each set of 3 is added together and the second digit of the result (if any) is applied to the set. For example, if you selected 5, 6 and 7, you would have 18. The resulting draw would be 5, 6, 7 *8. Players would bet on the outcome of either the entire number set or individual values, depending on the bookie's betting options. Game results are revealed to players on a subsequent basis.
Payout rates have a wide range due to the number and types of bets a player can make. The game is not played anymore in any legal setting due to rules in place by the Central Lotteries Regulation Act of 1998. Indian players have since reverted to other lottery games and games of chance.
You can find multiple online lottery and casino game options through licensed India-friendly online casino operators. So, while Satta Matka is not played anymore, the demand for lottery gambling options is still present.
Legal Lottery Gambling In India
The Central Lotteries Regulation Act of 1998 effectively ended Satta Matka and offered a legal avenue for Indian punters to participate in numbers games. While Satta Matka and games like Keno are lottery-styled there are little to no legal routes to play these games domestically within India except on legal online keno sites.
Lotteries, however, are legal under this Act so long as they are played within their licensed jurisdiction and/or state. While the law uses the term central, the Central Lotteries Regulation Act of 1998 is not a federal law as some states are able to choose whether or not to offer lotteries at all.
Interpreting The Legal Online Gambling Framework In India
What does all this mean? The most important takeaway from all this is that it is legally possible to gamble online in India. The best option for residents is through offshore gambling operators that are legally licensed and regulated by a foreign government. If you live in Sikkim, there is an Indian-based online gambling option.
FEMA may limit your transaction methods, but there are legal ways around the law to allow players to successfully fund their account(s). None of the 3 overarching federal laws mention online gambling, and there are no legal means for them to enforce the industry. Based on our research, no resident has been tried under these laws for gambling online.