Does online gambling legal in India?

India is the second-largest country in terms of population with over one billion people. Hence, the number of people involved in gambling is also quite large. The most popular types of betting are sports betting especially, Cricket and horse racing. Also, casino gambling and games like poker are famous when it comes to betting.  

Even though gambling is really famous in India, the Indian government prohibits it. Most of the protocols and laws relating to gambling are outdated and unclear. Similar is the situation for online gambling. Therefore, this article will explain the online gambling laws in detail, which will help you get a clear vision for the rules and regulations.

The chronology of Gambling in India 

For many years, people have successfully gambled without any particular gambling laws. Starting from the smallest places to large cities, people have actively participated in traditional Indian games like Teen Patti and many more. 

After the colonization and the arrival of the British in India, the British Council decided to enact some laws and ethics upon the Indian community by regulating the first gambling law in India around the mid-1800s. Hence, the Public Gambling Act in 1867 became the first law to prohibit gambling in India. 

Even after 150 years, the government did not put any effort to change or revise the ancient gambling law of 1867. Up to the present time, the law is been followed in many Indian states, except for few states that have legislated their own local gambling laws.  

But here, the question may arise that how 1867 gambling law takes consideration of online gambling in India? It does not. Back in 1867, online gambling didn’t exist. Hence, the law has no mention of online gambling in it. 

However, even if online gambling is not mentioned in 1867 law, we can’t speculate online gambling to be legal in India. The Indian government has not amended any specific law stating online gambling to be illegal.

Sports Betting

When it comes to sports betting, it is illegal in India. However, there’s an exception to a horse race. The rest of the sports betting is subjected to the individual laws made by the states. India has a soft corner for Cricket, and their zeal for this game cannot be compared with any other country. Therefore, betting during the Indian Premier League outpaces the rest of the bettings on other sportsbooks serving in India.

The second sport that is famous for betting after Cricket is football. You can say that football is the second most popular betting sport in India. The other sports that Indians prefer are basketball, tennis, badminton, and other international sports. 

Individuals prefer betting on sports because of their unpredictable outcomes. This uncertainty in results attracts more audience towards sports betting. Therefore, if the results are pre-determined, the sports lose their integrity and hence lose the audience.

One of the biggest threats for sports and sports betting is match-fixing. Due to the large audience in online gambling, which keeps on increasing, has increased the risk of match-fixing to gain more money. In the case of sports like Cricket, the scale of the global gambling industry is increasing significantly. 

Due to this large scale, the range and the types of betting have also increased. This increment in sports betting is also the cause of the increase in corruption in India. Due to gambling and match-fixing, it has become a worldwide threat to the future of sports.

The Supreme Court-appointed the Lodha Commission because of the 2013 match-fixing scandal in IPL to look into the matter of cricket bettings.

Laws Relating To Sports Betting

The laws related to sports betting are somewhat complex and confusing. The reason behind the complexity is because every country has its own legislation for sports betting. However, most of the majority fails to mention clearly what is illegal and what is not. When it comes to India, sports betting is illegal, with an exception of horse racing betting. The rest of the laws for sports betting varies from state to state. 

Individuals in India are subjected to the Public Gambling Act of 1867 and the Technology Act of 2000. Based on these two laws, sports betting is illegal, but the different states can make their own gambling laws. Individual betters have to pay a fine of Rs. 200 or, they will get imprisonment of around three months. 

The public Gambling Act states clearly that any kind of gambling is illegal. However, India does not have any laws that prohibit Indians from online gambling, unlike the US. The US has an American American Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, a specific online gambling law, which India does not have. Therefore, numerous betting companies use this loophole to lure the Indians for sports betting.

When it comes to bookmarking, it is also illegal in India, but there is no particular law, which stops individual betters from making bets online outside the country with bookmarks. The government of Sikkim made a law on 4 March 2009 with the name Sikkim Online Gaming Rules, 2009. This law mentions the rules and protocols for individuals for online gambling licensing in Sikkim. 

The debate on what is legal and what is not in gambling still continues. The International Centre for Sports Security states that the Indian betting market holds a worth of US$130 billion and more. Also, the Indian exchequer once lost INR worth 2 lakh crore due to illegal betting, state the All India Gaming Federation.

Now let’s have a look at different forms of betting and enacted laws in India.

Horse Race Betting

Recently, SC considered betting on horse racing like a game of skill. 

Horse racing in India has been a popular sport for a very long. Whereas betting on horse racing has created another level of excitement among the players. Therefore, to proclaim the legality of horse race betting many Supreme court trials have been made. Various games have been categorized into based on chance and based on skill.

The main objective of categorizing was to separate Rummy ( a skilled-based game) from various other games based on chance, such as Lotteries.  Horse racing betting is not fully based on chance as it requires a certain kind of skills in order to get favourable outcomes. Before placing a bet, gamblers should have adequate evaluative skills and do a proper analysis of the contestant’s physical skills and abilities. Hence, in the case of Dr. K.R. Lakshmanan v. State of Tamil Nadu, the court stated that betting on horse racing is legal. Horse racing is neither a part of gaming nor gambling and is fully depends on skill. 

Fantasy betting

No doubt, some fantasy sports game versions are contemplated as skilled-based games in India. These games come under the excluded ones under the Gaming Enactments. 

According to Nagaland Act, the online team selection games and virtual sports fantasy league games are considered, as games of skill. Hence to redeem rewards and bonuses online in the state of Nagaland, a legal license is required. 

Lotteries 

Majorly, lottery laws have given approval to the state government to conduct and promote lotteries subject to certain terms and conditions. After all, lotteries are absolutely a game of chance and not a skill-based game. To ensure the smooth running of lotteries, the Lotteries (Regulation ) Act was amended, in 1998.

This act was passed at federal parliament and gives state governments a right to organize lotteries within their territory. 

Few states such as Sikkim operate physical lotteries, whereas lotteries are prohibited in some states like Madhya Pradesh. However, some states, like Punjab mainly offer online lotteries.  

Social Gaming

Basically, if the game does not offer any prize money or offer, you can not consider it as a part of gambling under the Gaming Enchantment. Depending upon the format of such games, other laws might become active. Such as intellectual property laws and laws restricting certain types of content, such as the IPC or the IT Act. 

Skill Games

As mentioned above, the game of skill is free from the prohibition under most Gaming Enactments. However, such games can be offered in both land-based and digital formats in all states. Only the Nagaland government has authorized a licensing regime to operate the online version of such games.  

The SC has now identified certain games of skills, such as horse betting and the game of Rummy.

The existing legal situation on Online gambling in India

The rise of the gambling industry in India is a growing concern in the Supreme Court. 

Some people are defending that gambling should be restricted in India. Whereas other people are supporting the legality of the gambling industry.  

Until and unless the federal Indian government takes a firm decision, the resemblance of online gambling in India is going to be a bit unclear. However, there are no such laws enforced in India that can prohibit online gambling. The SC has allowed each local state to set its own gambling laws, and set a certain parameter for online gambling. 

Only a few states have endorsed their own laws and regulations on online gambling. For example, the Maharashtra government has outlawed all sorts of gambling activity, both online and offline mode within the state.  

However, some exceptional states like Goa and Sikkim have gone too far to attain the legality of gambling in a regulated manner. Whenever you visit Goa and Sikkim, you will find real casinos operating on big platforms and attracting gamblers from all over the world. 

Whereas it is important to have a clear picture of federal legislation specifying online gambling to be legal or not. Until then, the legality of online gambling is still ambiguous. 

After all, excluding a few states where gambling is prohibited, you have the full legal right to start online gambling in India. 

Tax on Online Gambling

India does not have any clear tax rules for both land-based gambling and online casinos. The outdated laws of gambling that is Public Gaming Act of 1867 lay the ground rules for gambling and levy requirements. Although there’s no specific mention of the tax in the PGA, but some other legislative laws and acts mention taxation on gambling. The Income Tax Act of 1961 from Section 115BB states that any winning cash from lotteries, puzzles, race bettings, card games, online rummy, and other games including any type of betting and gambling act, is taxed around 30%.

The rate of the income tax has not relation with the way gambling winnings we taxed. To understand more clearly, let us assume that your annual income is Rs. 2.5 lac or below, then you won’t be paying any tax, which highly depends on your tax structure. However, if you end up winning prize money through gambling or betting, you will receive only 70%. As 30% will be the Tax deduction from your winning prize.

GST On Gambling

The central and state government adopted GST that is Goods and Services Tax in 2017. According to this standardization, a 28% tax rate is applicable for all entertainment services and events. These services also include casinos, betting, racecourses, and other related events. According to Section 2(52) lottery, betting, and gambling fall under the category of good and services and is actionable claims. Therefore, the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017 is valid for them. 

Conclusion

In this article, we have explained the rules and regulations that govern online gambling in India. We even provided you with the protocols based on different sports betting, lotteries, games like poker, and others. After understanding all these points, you are all set to start gambling in India.