A majority of India’s laws were influenced by the viewpoint of their British colonizers during the 1800’s in which the Royal Empire of Britain ruled over every aspect of India’s economic and socio-cultural development, including the nation’s stance on horse race betting regulations. The British were the first to introduce horse racing to Indians as a sport and pastime. While many Indians believe that gambling is a wrongful act, horse race betting quickly became an exception. Most if not all gambling is prohibited by central and state-based gaming laws, however, exceptions have been made for lotteries and games that require skill. Indian gambling laws change upon crossing territories as gambling is considered a state subject by order of the 1949 addition to the Indian Constitution which allows individual states to either adopt central gaming laws or develop their own.
Details of Horse Racing & Race Course Licensing Laws
The subject of gambling remains a state issue and almost every one of India’s 29 states has written exceptions for horse racing in their individual gaming laws. States often include exceptions to their gambling law statute to specifically exempt horse racing, an example of this can come from the West Bengal Gambling Rules of 1958. Of course, other states may have created separate horse race licensing statutes apart from their general gambling rules, this is the case for the state of Maharashtra with the Bombay Race Course Licensing Act of 1912 which allowed for the state to specifically address the rules and conditions of gaming within their borders. All states have laws similar to or mirroring the West Bengal Gambling Rules and Bombay Race Course Licensing Act. Most horse race licensing laws provide information on ways operators may obtain a license, the penalties associated with violating the law, exemptions, and general rules they would need to follow. These laws also provide the legal definitions for horse racing and race courses, of course not all definitions may be uniform across states.
How these Laws Affect Gambling in India
The truth of the matter is, that the technical legality behind horse racing and racecourse licensing laws is rather messy, just as they are for lotteries. While these laws only directly affect India’s racing industry, they also indirectly affect how states and people view gambling in other forms. Horse race betting is considered a predominately skilled form of gambling due to its heavy requirement of knowledge of the racing industry. This is in sharp contrast to the fact that wagering on games like cricket remain illegal in India even though they are structurally the same. In fact, this is an argument made by many individuals who see the unfairness in the law as horse racing is legal even though there is an element of chance, i.e. gambling, yet other sports wagering is not. This often frustrates Indian punters who want a wider range of domestic sports betting options available to them.
These laws effectively granted legal procedures for handling illegal race courses and sports wagering while outlining the parameters for legal race venues and bookkeepers. Horse race and racecourse licensing laws do not directly affect gaming as gambling is separated by two spheres, games of chance and games of skill of which horse race wagering is considered part of the latter. To fortify this point, in 1996 the Supreme Court of India ruled that horse racing is a lawful sport and form of public entertainment; horse racing is not defined as illegal under the 1888 Police Act or Gaming Act of 1930. They go on to state that successfully wagering on horse races requires skill rather than chance, which solidifies its position as a game of skill. The Turf Authority of India manages and oversees India’s nine legal racecourses and acts as a regulatory body for racing events, pari-mutuel betting booths, and trackside bookkeepers. Less than six Turf clubs compose the Turf Authority of India and while the industry is thriving strict regulations leave few online operators with a chance to offer horse race betting in this market to international players.
Many have commended India for legalizing horse wagering for the immense benefits raised by taxes and revenue drawn from this legal form of gambling. India’s Supreme Court has legitimatized the sports and justified the betting activities that go along with them. Therefore, it is clear that horse racing in India is considered a legal recreational activity and that betting on such races will remain as a legal gambling avenue.
Is It Illegal to Bet Online on Horse Races?
There are no central laws in place that restrict Indian punters from wagering on legally licensed offshore online India sportsbooks for international races. While there are differing gaming laws between states, we have not found any that prohibit Indian bettors from engaging in legal horse betting at legally licensed offshore racebooks. There are few offshore online racebooks that accept rupees and others that must instead provide currency conversion services. For the most part, offshore India legal horse betting is the best real money option for India residents. The domestic online betting options in India allow “free-to-play” bets to Indian punters but cannot take real-money.
Who Opposes these Laws?
There are many religious factions that want to stop the prominent industry as they believe that gambling is immoral and a worldly vice. Many of these factions lead anti-gambling protests and movements to put an end to the widely accepted sport. Their argument remains, gambling is a vice that taints the soul and causes harm to society. They aren’t exactly wrong though, as the number of violence ensued from underground gambling activities, gambling disputes, robbery, and anti-gambling protests only grow. While some Indians believe that horse racing (and all gambling) should end, many are happy to keep sport.