Gambling Laws in India – An Overview

Introduction

The Public Gambling Act, 1867 (“Gambling Act”) is that the general law governing gambling in India. However, the state legislatures, under the Constitution of India, are entrusted with significant regulatory leeway to make state specific gambling laws. The Gambling Act is that the central enactment which has been adopted by certain states in India and other states have been enacted their own legislation to manage and govern gambling activities within their territory i.e. “Gambling Legislations”. Most of the Gambling Legislations are enacted before the arrival of virtual or online gambling and hence these Gambling Legislations primarily ask gaming/gambling activities at the physical premises.

Regardless of the mounting popularity and therefore the revenue generated by gambling and betting in India, the Indian laws and therefore the Courts in India are averse to any game of chance, probability or luck except in States like Goa and Sikkim. Since the arrival of British rule, many Indian states have enforced the Gambling Act prohibiting all sorts of gambling and betting in their respective states. Goa and Sikkim are the sole exceptions which have allowed gambling and betting in their state, subject to regulation of their respective state Governments. List II of Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution, endows the State Governments with the facility to legislate on matters concerning gambling and betting. India continues to enforce the pre-independent gambling legislations enacted by British rulers, but it’s interesting to note that UK has changed its gambling laws by allowing most kinds of gambling in UK in light of the changing society and of their country.

Goa has gambling by passing the Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act, 1976. The Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act, 1976 was amended to permit the card-rooms in offshore vessels and slot machines in five star hotels only subject to prior approval and authorization of the government on payment of a specified recurring fee.  Sikkim has also legitimate gambling by enacting the Sikkim Regulation of Gambling 2005 (amendment). The Sikkim Regulation of Gambling 2005 (amendment) permits the government to notify the required areas where permission are often granted for running of casinos on payment of a specified fee.

This gives us a summary of the gambling laws in India and it’s clear from an equivalent that there are extensive restrictions on any quite gambling or wagering activities in India. However, all the Gambling Legislations in India have excluded “games of skill” from the meaning of gaming activities in India. There are numerous debates everywhere on the planet on which games or activities are often considered as ‘games of skill’ and which games or activities are based predominantly on luck during which an individual’s intellect has been little or no roles to play.

‘Gambling’ isn’t defined under the Gambling Legislations. The meaning of gambling in dictionary is “to stake something on a possibility; take a chance”. The gambling under the Gambling Legislation doesn’t include (i) depending on a race; (ii) games of and (iii) lotteries

Games of Chance vs. Games of Skill

Most games contain some unpredictable percentage of skill and chance, but a game will only fall in one or the other if one prevails over the other. For example, although Poker does have a degree of chance, it is still considered a game of skill because the player can make specific skill-based decisions around what other players are doing and the flop.

Most games of chance and skill are forbidden in India but are legal from offshore betting websites. An Indian citizen can legally play games like poker or slots as long as the online gambling website has its home office in another country.

Important Cases

State of Andhra Pradesh v K. Satyanarayana [AIR 1968 SC 825], the Court held:

The game of Rummy isn’t a game entirely of chance just like the ‘three-card’ game mentioned within the Madras case to which we were referred. The ‘three card’ game which matches under different names such a ‘flush’, ‘brag’ etc. may be a game of pure chance. Rummy, on the opposite hand, requires specific amount of skill because the autumn of the cards has got to be memorized and therefore the build up of Rummy requires considerable skill in holding and discarding cards. We cannot, therefore, say that the sport of Rummy may be a game of entire chance. it’s mainly and preponderantly a game of skill. the prospect in Rummy is of an equivalent character because the chance during a deal at a game of bridge.

Manamyil Mandram v State of Tamil Nadu [AIR 2005 MAD 261], the Court held

Therefore, while it’s the proper of the appellant to possess recreational activities which aren’t prohibited, the respondent’s right to require appropriate proceedings against illegal games of betting, wagering, etc. is additionally provided for under the Act. Therefore, there can’t be a blanket direction as prayed for by the appellant. The question whether a specific game may be a game of skill or chance is to be selected the facts and circumstances of every case. As and when proceedings are; initiated against the appellant in accordance with law, the appellant shall always have the proper to question an equivalent or challenge the action of the respondents if it’s not in accordance with law.

Online gambling

The State of Sikkim passed the Sikkim Online Gaming  Act, 2008, which was passed on 28th June 2008 by the Sikkim legislature with dual object of controlling and regulating online gaming through electronic and non-electronic formats and to impose tax on an equivalent within its territory. The Sikkim Online Gaming Rules, 2009 has been subsequently enacted and therefore the same has been amended from time to time.

The Sikkim Online Gaming Act, 2008 was amended on August 19, 2015 restricting the offering of “online games and sports games” under the licenses issued under the said Act to the physical locations of the sport parlors within the geographical limitations of the State of Sikkim through intranet gaming terminals. Initially, the wording of the Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Act, 2008 envisaged that the license shall allow the licensee to supply its games across India without restricting it to the territory of Sikkim.

Nagaland government has passed the Nagaland Prohibition of Gaming and Promotion and Regulation of Online Games of Skill Act, 2016. This Act provides for regulation and promotion of “games of skill”  by issuance of licenses. This Act provides that the license holders under an equivalent can operate from any State in India where gambling is permitted.

Sikkim has mounted legislation regulating the virtual or online gaming events inside its territory. apart from the Sikkim Online Gaming Act, 2008 and Nagaland Ban of Gaming and Promotion and Regulation of Online Games of Skill Act, 2016, none of the opposite Central or State gambling legislation specifically mentions online gambling which puts online gambling involving ‘game of skill’ during a grey area .

In the present world where most are connected through internet, an individual sitting in India can bet through a far off owned website. there’s no law which directly regulates/prohibits such activities in India. within the absence of any specific law directly regulating the web gaming/gambling through a server located outside India, these are often regulated through the web intermediary compliances, cyber law due diligence requirements prescribed under the knowledge Technology Act, 2000, restrictions on foreign exchange incomes and outgoes and strict enforcement of anti-money laundering laws.

Conclusion

The gambling laws in India still be confusing and unclear. The judiciary time again through various decided case laws have tried to clear the air and supply clarity on the topic. However, the recent technological changes have thrown open the world and have allowed the masses to participate in activities which dwell the border line of gambling laws in India. These events are yet to be analyzed and tested through the courts in India. it’s advisable that before someone ventures into any gambling activity in India, he/she may take a sound legal advice in respect of an equivalent so on avoid any unnecessary legal implications. 

This article has been written by Shashank Pandey, B.A. LL.B student at Indore Institute Of Law.

Also Read – Fantasy Sports And It’s Legality In India

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