Betting and gambling have been a part of the Indian culture for a very long time. From mythical literature to Diwali celebrations in households, forms of gambling can be found everywhere in India. But does that mean that gambling or betting is legal.
Not necessarily. As per the Public Gambling Act of 1867, which governs gambling and betting activities in most Indian states, any form of betting or gambling is illegal if done in public gaming houses. This means that physically betting on sports matches or card games when in a public space, is considered illegal in India.
However, there is another form of betting that people have resorted to – online betting. Online betting has only recently come into play within India and has quickly attracted hordes of users in the last few years. Not only is betting online way more convenient and user-friendly than offline betting, but it may also be more legal than the latter.
Is online betting legal in India?
The Public Gambling Act has not prohibited the use of online betting websites or apps, which means that technically, online betting sites are not really illegal. This means that the online betting industry exists in a state which is neither illegal nor fully legal and regulated.
But this legal loophole does make it convenient for players to freely find online betting sites and bet on sports or casino games online. While some states have taken measures to make online betting illegal, most Indian states still stick to the Public Gambling Act, allowing a free pass to the online betting sites, which are mostly based off-shore anyway.
Since most of these legal betting sites are based outside India, they lie outside the purview of Indian law and provide a great betting platform for users to enjoy. Plus, most betting sites now accept deposits in Indian rupees, which makes them compliant with the rules in the Foreign Exchange Management Act or FEMA as well.
Will online betting sites ever be regulated?
Currently, because of the lack of formal legislation, these online betting sites are not regulated by the Indian government. So while people can still gamble online, they might not be entirely safe in doing so.
Due to a lack of regulation and formal laws, the online betting industry is rampant with fraudulent transactions as well as money laundering outfits. Additionally, without the safety of formal laws and regulatory authorities, the rights of the user are not fully protected. This also means that there is no system of addressing any disputes or complaints within the industry.
Since about 40% of Indian internet users are already engaged in some form of online gaming (and this number is projected for a rapid increase), there is an absolute need for formal legalization and regulation of the online gambling industry.
There are some states, like Maharashtra, that have recently contemplated legalizing online betting to not only protect the users but also make a decent amount of state revenue by taxing the transactions. However, this is only just the beginning, and there is no way to predict whether a legal online betting industry is a possibility for the future of India.