The Legalization of Gambling in India: The Current State of Play

The Current State of Play in India

It’s no secret that the online gambling is a phenomenon that has dominated the world by storm. Throughout the last few years, more countries have put their markets on the map. In this respect, India is one of those countries that has successfully contributed to the rapid growth that the gambling industry is enjoying nowadays. That said, there are still issues about gambling laws that need to be tackled.

"India faces so many problems when it comes to gambling due to the gambling laws that were implemented way before the era of advanced technologies."

Outdated Laws Keep Causing Problems

As of now, the country still abides by some of the strictest gambling laws that are centuries old. So, where does that leave players who want to engage in online gambling?

So, first things first. According to the Indian Constitution, all forms of gambling are regulated at state level. Due to the fact that different states in India have different approaches when it comes to online gaming, this has also been a cause for concern for gaming operators who want to offer their services in the country.

Seeing as India’s online market is growing, Indian authorities and lawmakers had to do something. In fact, many states are in constant discussions on how they can tackle the situation at hand. As you can imagine, India faces so many problems when it comes to online scenario.

This is mainly due to the fact that the gambling laws that are currently in place were introduced way before the era of advanced technologies. In this respect, we can consider acts such as the Public Gaming Act of 1867. According to some statements enacted from this act, gambling activities in ‘gaming houses’ are completely prohibited.

The main problem lies here – according to the Public Gaming Act, 1867, India classifies gambling into two separate categories – Games of Skill and Games of Chance. In this regard, Games of Skill relate to those games that require you to place bets on a person’s abilities or skill. In the case of Games of Chance, you need to place bets on numbers, objects, things – in other words, the winning result.

Here’s the thing – regardless of the laws that are in place, you can’t really decide how a game should be classed. Let’s illustrate this in an example; although poker does feature the element of luck, one can’t dispute the fact that you need a certain amount of skills to be able to win.

More Calls to Prohibit Online Gaming

So, what is India’s current position on this? It depends. As of now, only 13 card games have been identified as games of skill. Some of these include rummy, poker and cricket betting.

Even though we are now in 2021, some states still abide by such laws that don’t even make any references to online gambling. At the time of writing, only the states of Nagaland, and Andhra Pradesh have updated their anti-gambling laws to also state their position with regard to the matter. And on that note, we need to talk about the significant developments that have occurred in Andhra Pradesh.

The Andhra Pradesh Gaming Ordinance has now been introduced. In this case, the amendments are very similar to what was stated in the previous Telangana Gaming Act, 1974. In this regard, the Ordinance is now issuing a ban on all online games including games of skill. Needless to say, this has caused an uproar in Andhra Pradesh since it is one of the most important markets for operators. This issue is currently being handled at the High Court of Andhra Pradesh.

Additionally, the Supreme Court of India made its position clear – 1) games of skill do not fall under the definition of gambling, 2) operators who offer games of skill have the freedom to do business under the Indian Constitution.

The Way Forward

Without a doubt, we can all agree that India needs one clear legislation that regulates and licenses games of skill. The law could then be supported by other regulations imposed by gaming bodies. This would prove to be extremely beneficial in many ways.

For starters, one would be able to identify which games can be classed as games of skill. On top of that, one common law would give operators a better idea on how to abide by the rules. On top of that, this would help them introduce measures that would safeguard the player at all times.

Despite the confusion, it’s nice to see that some states are making progress. A prime example of this is Maharashtra. In this regard, lawmakers are in constant discussions with regard to the legalizing and regulating of online betting. We don’t know what the outcome will be just yet, so we will have to wait and see what new laws would be introduced.