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Is Online Sports Betting Legal in India?

Summary: Betting or gambling is an illegitimate activity in India. Then why the popularity of online sports betting is growing rapidly? Find out in this article.

We all love the epic of Mahabharata and the classic plot of gambling between Kauravas & Pandavas that has changed the course of history (for the good!). The evidence can be found in our ancient civic texts like Manusmriti that shows the concept of gambling goes back a long way and wasn`t born yesterday. In contemporary times, it was a clandestine pastime, which was practiced outside the ambit of law by many.

But the concept of gambling is not fully accepted by the Indian society. While some embrace it, others may frown upon it. And one of the major reasons behind it could be its illegal status in our country. But as we say that incomplete information could be more dangerous, the status of gambling in our country is pretty much vague, especially when it comes to online sports betting.

The Public Gambling Act of 1867 of India

Betting and gambling is not a legal activity or a skill in India. But there was a time when it was an unregulated activity, enjoyed by people in great numbers. During the colonial period, many people made fortunes for themselves, while many lost everything due to gambling. The losses that were inflicted upon them were too hard to handle and proved to be catastrophic for some.

This forced the government to take some strict measures to regulate the activity, and the Public Gambling Act of 1867 came into existence. According to this law, ‘it was illegal to offer gambling services on a federal level, as well as to visit and use a public gambling facility’. As the concept of internet or online sports betting wasn`t even conceived, the Public Gambling Act of 1867 did not make any reference of online sports betting in India.

Does that make online gambling or betting legal in India?

A vague answer would be ‘yes’, as there is no clear law that prohibits online sports betting in India. The loophole has proved to be a golden opportunity for various betting companies, based out of India. They are luring millions of Indians and the India Premier League(IPL) tops their lists. Many websites also hook-up with offshore betting agencies, and allow Indians to place online bets.

To place a bet on any IPL games with money, a user has to click on the link of bookmaker according to his preference. The process of registration would be completed, once the user opens an online account with the bookmaker. The world of online betting offers dynamic choices to put your money on. And with cricket, you can not only bet on matches, but on every possible aspect of an IPL match. From the toss to how the bowlers will perform and the odds on a batsman scoring a century.

There are many websites, which do not take bets but help get in touch with international online bookmakers. While bookmakers in India are not legal, there is no specific law that deemed an individual customer from placing an online bet with a bookmaker based outside India.

Is there a possibility of prohibition of online sports betting in the future?

The online sports betting market is flourishing and has witnessed exponential growth over the past couple of years. According to data collected by KPMG, ‘the industry has generated revenue around Rs. 4,380 crore in financial year 2018’, which also includes fantasy sports- a legal business activity in India. What legalize it, is however its status of a “game of skill”.

So what future holds for this industry? Well, if the government of India wanted to completely prohibit online gambling, the effective measures and law amendments would have taken place, by now. But, they never take any step in that direction. Instead, they gave the individual states the prerogative to decide whether to legalize online sports betting in their territory.

The online gambling is regulated in Sikkim and Goa, however, Maharashtra has prohibited all kinds of gambling activities, including online sports betting.  While in other Indian states, there are no particular laws regarding placing your bets online, which makes it  LEGAL GREY AREA. For instance, in Tamil Nadu, online gambling is neither legal nor illegal, which does not make it a prosecutable offense in any state other than Maharashtra. Hence, the regulation of online gambling soon seems bleak.

Political Stance on Legalizing Online Sports Betting

With the entire country divided on this matter, the Law Commission of India (LCI) has submitted a report in 2018. In the report, they have recommended to legalize all the sports-related betting, citing references and evidences from ancient civic texts.

Shashi Tharoor, the Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha from Thiruvananthapuram, also introduced a Private Member`s Bill titled the Sports (Online Gaming and Prevention of Fraud )in the Parliament on December 28, 2018. According to him, “legitimizing sports betting could root out the thorny issues that have malign the entire concept of gambling”. He further added, “ the long-term prognosis for sports and betting is bleak if corruption is not dealt with. While self-regulatory practices need to be followed by the industry, there is an urgent need to have a statutory framework with government oversight to ensure service providers are following license conditions to track suspicious betting patterns and to have some control over the money flow to curb the generation of black money”.

According to Rolan Landers, CEO of the All India Gaming Federation, “the individual states have the authority to draft laws associated with gambling is good, but the absence of a Central regulation has been deleterious to all stakeholders. Since the online betting sports operate in the shadows, the money generated by the industry ends up in the underground economy, which is not good for our country “. Legalizing it would create multiple jobs, similarly like Goa and Sikkim, where the industry has created around 7000 direct jobs, and 3,000 indirect jobs in sectors like telecom marketing and finance.

Excerpts:> As the Public Gambling Act (1867), prohibits all kinds of gambling acts in India, it does not mention or outlines the rules and regulations for online sports betting in India. Although the law can be interpreted differently by individuals, several legal experts have ensured that online gambling is not a prosecutable offense in India. No individual has ever been convicted or prosecuted for online gambling. There are no specific laws exist in the Indian Constitution that deems online sports gambling illegal or bars it. It is completely legal and possible for Indian betters to open an account and place bets with any of their preferred online gambling sites.

 

 

 

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