Mention the words online betting and immediately you think of a few countries such as Sweden, United Kingdom and USA. These countries have had a long and some would say turbulent history with online betting which has ultimately led to the regulation of the activity. India unfortunately is still stuck at the ‘unsure’ phase as to what it plans to do with online betting. There is confusion regarding its legality, and no one can seem to provide a definitive answer. Matters are made worse by allowing online betting on horse racing yet the country’s biggest sport, cricket is not part of that equation.
Sports Betting | An Immoral Act?
Those who oppose sports betting use the argument of it being an immoral act to further their agenda. They highlight scriptures such as Mahabharat which mentions the ruin the the activity can bring about. Just as is the case with every coin, the other side of the argument is represented by punters who want the activity to be accepted and regulated at the same time. These individuals would like the government to come up with a legal framework that allows them to gamble without the fear of breaking any laws. Speaking of laws, what exactly does the existing legal framework have to say about gambling?
Current Gambling Laws of India
The Public Act of Gambling was introduced in 1867 and as per the act no gambling facility can be operated by members of the public. Anyone caught violating the act was required to pay a fine of Rs.200 and up to three months of imprisonment. If the government caught the punters in the act, they too would have to pay Rs.200 and face the possibility of one month in prison. 150 years ago, this punishment was considered severe and was somewhat successful to curb gambling. However, fast forward to now and the same act is now prone to one very big loophole – online gambling. The act does not cover online casinos that are being run by organisations not based in India.
Does this make online betting legal?
The federal government has deflected this answer to individual states. What this means is that in states such as Goa and Sikkim online gambling is deemed legal. Maharashtra on the other hand has imposed a blanket ban on all gambling activities including online gambling. Despite such bans by individual states, there is still no recorded case of anyone being prosecuted due to their involvement in online gambling in India.
The law makes it clear that a casino or bookmaker cannot set up shop in India and promote their products in the online space. This is fine as the leading bookmakers currently offering their services in India are based outside of the country. Online betting sites such as Betway have offices in multiple countries except for India.
Online Betting on Horse Racing
Do you think there is an element of skill involved in betting on horse racing or are the results based on chance? If you side with the first explanation, then you are on the same page as the Supreme Court of India. Nearly two decades ago, betting on horses was determined as being skill based and the activity was made legal. The more accurate reason behind the move is that horse breeding is a lucrative industry in India, enjoyed by the extremely powerful and wealthy. These individuals have enough clout to influence government decisions.
If skill was in fact being used to determine the results of a horse racing event, then the same logic could be applied to all other sports including cricket. The government would then have to legalise all forms of betting activities. The silver lining from the decision made to legalise horse racing is that the government acknowledges the desire for Indians to engage in sports betting.
Whatever steps are taken next by the government, it is evident that Indians will continue to bet whether via the numerous betting sites that are now available or via the seedier ‘underground’ betting dens. The sensible solution is to regulate the activity to curb all illegal forms of gambling and to use revenues generated by regulated gambling for the betterment of the country.
Title: Online Betting in India | Is it Legal Now?
Posted On: 22/11/2019
Author: Tony Willets