The Public Gambling Act of 1867

In 1867 the India government needed a way to crack down on gambling houses running rampant through the country, thus they enacted the Public Gambling Act of 1867. The Government of India enacted the Public Gambling Act to be a centralized law on the subject of gambling houses and gambling house operators. It also gave Indian states the power to enact their own India gambling laws for gambling houses and defined penalties for breaking the law under the Public Gambling Act.

Details of The Public Gambling Act of 1867

For owning or operating a gambling house, a fine of 200 rupees will be enforced and operators could face up to 3-months imprisonment. It also defines the penalties for visiting a gambling house. A participant found engaging in gambling houses could face up to 100 rupees in fines and up to 1-month imprisonment. A 1976 amendment changed the wording of the gambling house definition to “house, room, tent, enclosure, space, vehicle, vessel or place” within the act to further combat gambling within the borders of India. This wording has led to many debates over internet gambling and if it could be considered a vessel or a vehicle. Despite the confusion, Section 12 states that the law shall not be applied to games of skill wherever played. India classifies games into two separate categories, games of skill and games of chance.

Games Of Skill Vs. Games Of Chance

In India, these two gaming categories are often debated upon and in 1996 the Supreme Court defined gambling as betting or wagering on games of chance only and omitted games of skill played for money or not. The same court also defined games of skill as a competition where success depends on a significant degree of skill, despite there being an element of chance. In 2007, a Bangalore High Court made it clear by their order that chess, poker, rummy, darts and a few other games are skill games. This is considered a precedent by many, although not every state accepts poker as a game of skill at this time. Rummy is one of the most popular card games in India and most states allow Rummy to be played and wagered on without the risk of punishment, however, that is not the case in Assam or Odisha.

Potential Successors

States are now allowed to enact their own laws for gambling but so far only three have been able to pass legislation to allow land-based casinos. Other states are now in the process of following suit but have run into some opposition from opposing parties. Maharashtra Casinos and Control Act is a piece of legislation drafted up to allow land-based casinos and licensing of those casinos in the state of Maharashtra. The state government never acted upon the legislation due in part to opposing religious parties, but the city of Mumbai is calling for casinos. Other states are now wanting to allow gambling options, Karnataka is currently pushing and drafting legislation to allow floating casinos since they see that as a faster approach for allowing casino gambling. Karnataka is considered the IT hub for India and residents believe casino gambling as a way to attract more tourists to the southwestern state.


Today there are only three states in India that have enacted legislation to allow legal land-based casinos, Goa, Daman and Sikkim. Sikkim also made international headlines when they enacted the Sikkim Online Gaming Act, allowing licensing for online casinos and sports betting services. States have the power to allow gambling or not, however, most states choose the latter. The Public Gambling Act of 1867 is considered outdated by most people, even though it has been adopted by many states as their primary gambling law. When it was drafted online gambling was not even close to existence, so many people argue that it can’t apply to internet games and gambling. The 1976 amendment to the Public Gambling Act attempted to redefine the definition of gambling but it created a grey area when they deemed a game of skill as not gambling. India is a very religious country and some states such as Maharashtra, the home of Mumbai, are now having problems getting people to accept gambling in their community based on the laws that were drafted over 150 years ago.


Is the Public Gambling Act of 1867 still a law today?
Yes, it has been adopted by many states as their gambling law. It is widely considered outdated by its criticizers, but no national law has replaced the Public Gambling Act as of yet.

Does the Public Gambling Act of 1867 make all gambling illegal?
Yes, The Public Gambling Act of 1867 made all forms of gambling illegal in India except for offshore online casinos accepting players from India, poker sites, and Indian online sports betting sites. It also gave individual states the power to make their own gambling laws.

What forms of gambling are not affected by the Public Gambling Act of 1867?
The only forms of gambling not affected by this act is offshore India legal mobile casinos, offshore online gambling, India legal online poker, offshore online sportsbooks and racebooks, India legal horse betting and games of skill such as Rummy, Poker, and Bridge.

How is offshore online gambling affected by this law?
It's been debated but no wordage in the original act or its current amendments are directed at offshore online gambling, so the general consensus is that gambling at licensed offshore online casinos, poker sites and sportsbooks remains legal under this law.