Law Relating to Online Betting/Gambling in India

Basic Definition of Betting

Betting is the act of playing money, time, or something else on the result of something like a game or a race. The thing which is at stake for such an act or tradition of playing luck games is often money. The word “gambling” can also be used in place of “betting”[1].

To wager or to bet means to gamble. For thousands of years, people around the world have relied on the outcome of events. Only 5,000 years since the presence of six-sided dice is traceable. The six-sided dice was available in 3000 BC[2]. People who gamble fear risking something based on the outcome of a horse race, for example.

Difference between Betting and Gambling

In betting, the individual is more conscious of what might happen than in a gamble. Pure chance is the foundation of gambling and the study will gain from betting. For example, if you bet on horses, you will research horses, jockeys and coaches’ results. The surface which the horse prefers can be found. For starters, some horses avoid grass ground, avoid left field. And this horse will do well if it rains[3].

With Gambling, one does not know what the outcome will be. However, two words can be used interchangeably. Their meaning might be different technically but in real life, virtually they are the same[4].

In what terms is betting/gambling illegal/legal?

The vision of the Government of India towards gambling and betting has not always attained a middle ground. There are a few sporting activities which are allowed by the Government while some are persistently avoided[5].

There are 2 central acts in the country to govern gambling which are, The Public Gambling Act, 1867 and the Payment and Settlement Act, 2007. There are 22 states which have their own gambling acts to govern the activities within the territorial limits of their state only.

Nowadays there are only a few states which have legalized gambling whereas maximum states are against it[6].

The states in the country have exclusive right to either legalize or ban gambling within the territory of their state as per the 7th Schedule of the Constitution of India, Entry 34 List II[7].

Every state Government shall, at its discretion, pass and legislate the rules of gambling. Moreover, in no state cases should the Central Government interfere.

So far, most Indian countries have only implemented anti-gambling regulations, though 13 countries have legalized lots and two states have approved several other forms of gambling (Goa & Sikkim). For a country as vast as India and 29 independent states, one can only imagine the variety of gambling laws.

Legal Casino Gambling in Goa

The act which governs gambling in Goa is the Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gaming Act, 1976 to legitimize certain forms of gambling. The important section from the act is:

Section 26(13A). Authorized Game. – (1) “Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, the Government may authorized any game of electronic amusement/slot machines in Five Star Hotels 27 {and such table games and gaming on board in vessels offshore as may be notified} subject to such conditions, including payment of such recurring and non-recurring fees, as may be prescribed”.

As of today, there are many casinos in and around the Goa city which operate legally without any disruption.[8]

Legal Gambling in Sikkim

Sikkim is the second state after Goa to legitimize gambling in the state.

The Sikkim Government authorizes certain gambling sites to operate without any disruption by the Sikkim Casino Games (Control and Tax Rules), 2002[9] by providing them with legal licenses.[10]

Sikkim was also the first state to legalize Online Gambling in the country.

The Government of Sikkim has also started to take online applications to the license holders to run the gambling business. This includes casino gambling, lottery, and sports betting.

Online betting

The Online Gambling or Online Gaming acts in the country prohibit the act of betting or wagering. The gambling laws in the country are different for different states because gambling is a state subject and Centre cannot interfere in that. This would mean that if an act is allowed in one state, it would be punishable in the other. However, the Public Gambling Act, 1867, which is a central enactment about the same, does not consider online gambling as an offence. “This is no surprise since Internet was a long way from being invented when the act was introduced”[11]. Gambling online is not mentioned in the said act. As discussed in the last chapter, there are 22 states which have their own anti or pro gambling rules to govern within their state. “It is to be noted that State Legislations have been enacted prior to the advent of virtual / online gambling in India and therefore references of gaming/gambling in India, in respective state legislatures are in relation to physical premises only, barring Sikkim and Nagaland which are the only States who have introduced regulations pertaining the online gaming”[12].

After a review of the laws of different states it is concluded that, certain games including ‘Poker’ is allowed in the states, Nagaland, West Bengal and Sikkim both online and offline which is further subject to the permission of the legislature of the state.

There is no specific act or provision in the Public Gambling Act, 1867 to ban online gambling in India unlike that of USA, where the American Internet Gambling Prohibition Act specifically mentions about online gambling[13]. Furthermore, it is also a difficult situation in India to catch the offenders gambling online if the server is located in another part of the world. “Enforcing the act becomes difficult if the servers are located offshore”[14].

In the year 2009, the department of Finance, Revenue and Expenditure issued an agreement known as Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Rules, 2009. This was the first in the country and in the state to issue guidelines for online gambling in the state. With invoking of internet and technology, and their exponential growth in all arenas of social life having been seen in the preceding 10-15 years must enable the governments to do necessary process re-engineering in the prevalent laws and thus endeavor that necessary amendments and modifications are brought-in in the concerned laws. It becomes more important to introduce such amendments per se in terms of enactment of IT Act 2000 and its comprehensive overhauling by IT (Amendment) Act 2008.

[1] Sarah Cole, ‘What is betting? Definition and Examples 21 March 2020’ <> accessed on 21 March 2020

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] ‘Gowree Gokhale, India: Gambling 2020’ (ICLG, 20 November 2019) <> accessed on 22 March 2020

[6] Ibid

[7] The Constitution of India 1950, sch 7

[8] Id at 7

[9] The Sikkim Casino Games (Control and Tax Rules) 2002

[10] Id at 6

[11] ‘Gambling Laws and Regulation in India’ (Gambling Sites, 6 October 2014) <> accessed on 23 March 2020

[12] ‘Rahul Dhote, Legal Position of Online Gaming/Gambling in India’ (LAWYERED, 6 February 2019) <> accessed on 23 March 2020

[13] Somshuvra Laha, ‘Legally illegal, but you can bet online in India’ Hindustan Times (New Delhi, 21 May 2012) 6

[14] Ibid

This article is authored by Anurag Mohan Bhatnagar, student of B.A.LLB. (Hons.) at National Law University Odisha.

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