Online gambling laws in India

The law in India remains unclear as to the gaming domain. The major point of consideration that arises is the difference between gaming and gambling. The distinction between games of skill and games of chance has been made. 

Gambling/ Games of chance are a play for value against an uncertain event in the hope of gaining something of value and is entirely dependent on chance/ luck. The games of such nature are allowed to be played once the operator of the game obtains a license for it in the said regard. Games of Skill are games where the probability of success is directly proportional to the skills possessed. 

The Central Law on Gambling

In India, the Public Gambling Act of 1867 prohibits running or being in charge of a public gaming house or a Casino. The penalty for breaking this law is a fine of Rs.200 or imprisonment of up to 3 months.

Additionally, this Act prohibits visiting gambling houses. The penalty for visiting a gambling house is a fine of Rs.100 or imprisonment of up to one month.

State Laws on Gambling

Since gambling happens to be a subject in the state list, each state has made its own set of laws on gambling and hence each state has laid out a procedure of its own. As of now, out of 29 states and 7 Union Territories, only 3 of them allow casinos as legal.

These are -:

  • Goa
    Goa was the first state to permit casino gaming because until 1999 land based casinos were outlawed in all Indian States.  Other states have followed its lead since then, to encourage their tourism business. As of 2018, the Gaming Commission Rules have been formed which include significant provisions such as banning entry of Goans in casinos, presentation of identity card at the entrance and also a minimum age limit of 21 years to enter the casino.
  • Daman & Diu
    The Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act, 1976 has permitted casinos to only operate in five-star hotels and offshore vessels and that too with the prior permission of the government. In addition, as per the recent amendment, the casino operators have to invest a minimum of Rs. 5 crores in the casino as opposed to the earlier Rs. 1 crore. Hence discouraging people from entering into the casino business. However, it is noteworthy to mention that the Deltin Daman Casino is the biggest casino running in India.
  • Sikkim
    There are two casinos in Sikkim – one is called Casino Sikkim and the other is Casino Mahjong. However, reports suggest that Vishakhapatnam might also be getting its very first casino.


Legal Framework regarding gambling

The Apex Court of India in the case of State of Bombay v. RMD Chamarbaugwala, laid down that the games having elements as below do not come under the ambit of ‘gambling:

  1. Where success depends upon a substantial degree of skill; and
  2. Despite there being an element of chance there is a requirement of application of skill

In addition to this, in the case of  Dr. K.R. Lakshmanan v. State Of Tamil Nadu & Anr, the Supreme Court of India recognised a game to be one of skill even if it had an element of chance if it depended upon:

  1. Superior knowledge;
  2. Training;
  3. Attention;
  4. Experience;
  5. Adroitness of the Player;
  6. Element of skill predominates element of chance

Online gaming laws in India

Online gaming in India is at a very nascent stage and is being governed by state laws who neither expressly prohibit it nor are these activities regarded as gambling. The popularity of online games like Texas Hold ‘Em Poker, Black Jack and Slots are only increasing day by day. While the situation is mostly favourable, as 24 out of 29 states and all 7 Union Territories permit the playing of online games with stakes, a few states prohibit online games which include betting or wagering of any kind. They are respectively prohibited under the following state acts:

  1. The Assam Game and Betting Act, 1970
  2. The Orissa (Prevention of) Gambling Act, 1955
  3. Nagaland Prohibition of Gambling and Promotion of Online Games of skills Act, 2016 & Rules, 2016.

Conclusion

The law governing gambling activities remains in the grey area. Presently, the laws allowing/prohibiting gambling are not clear and hence leave room for speculation. There remains ambiguity in the distinction between a game of chance and a game of skill. Adding to that, since each state has different laws regarding gambling, there is an absence of a clear and defined standard. There is a need for the Centre to pass a legislation which lays down laws governing gambling that are to be uniformly followed throughout the country of India. 

Author: Aashna Nahar

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