Is There a Future for the Online Casino Industry in India
Gambling has a long and complex history in India, with archaeologists having found sandstone dice in the plains of the Indus Valley that date as far back as the 3,300 BC. It is perhaps surprising that the country lacks a well-developed gambling industry and most forms of betting are heavily restricted.
The sector is subject to the regulation of the Public Gambling Act of 1867 which was introduced when the country was still governed by the British. This piece of legislation prohibits running and visiting gambling houses. Violators are either fined or imprisoned. For the time being, there are only several Indian states that permit legal land-based gambling, namely Sikkim, Daman, Diu, and Goa. Gaming legislation varies from one state to another.
India Allows for Games Governed by Skill
The legal landscape in India is murky where gambling is concerned, to say the least. The Indian authorities make a legal distinction for certain forms of gambling. Games like poker that are governed mostly by skill are excluded from the statewide prohibition. Poker acquired legal status in 2013 with a decision of India’s High Court which ruled in favor of a previously raided poker club and its patrons. Despite this, the majority of the Indian states currently do not grant licenses for online gaming activities.
Where online gambling is concerned, India is yet to introduce adequate statewide regulations to govern such activities. The online sector remains unregulated at the moment, with the state of Sikkim being the only Indian state to regulate online and land-based betting. The latter are overseen under the provisions of the Sikkim Online Gaming Regulation Act of 2008.
Legal Forms of Gambling in the State of Sikkim
This legislation allows for legal and licensed gambling on casino games like punto banco, blackjack, poker, baccarat, pontoon, roulette, and keno. In fact, live blackjack is considered one of the most popular in India. Casino Brag, backgammon, and bingo are also regulated in the state of Sikkim. PlayWin became the first legal virtual gambling operator to receive its license from the Sikkim authorities.
Most forms of sports betting are also considered largely illegal across the majority of the Indian states. The state of Sikkim is the only one that boasts legal online wagering on sports. The state laws were amended at a later stage to allow for the legalization and regulation of sports wagering.
Online Gambling Regulations
In the mid-1990s, the country’s High Court of India determined that placing bets on horse races should be legal since it involved an element of skill rather than being based on pure chance. The state authorities of Sikkim require locally licensed gambling operators to pay a monthly tax that amounts to 1% of their overall gambling revenue.
Operators that fail to pay their monthly fees within the designated timeframe are penalized with a 20% fee. The online gambling licenses in Sikkim have a validity of one year and must be renewed annually. Each candidate for a local license is expected to pay ₹500 when applying.
The applicants must also comply with certain operational requirements outlined by the Sikkim authorities. For example, they are expected to display where their offices are registered along with the exact date on which they have received their gambling permits.
The locals are very keen on sports wagering, especially in events like cricket. In fact, cricket enjoys such wild popularity on Indian soil that it is almost like a religion for the local punters. The country even boasts its very own cricket league – the Indian Premier League.
Indian Gamblers Are Not Prosecuted for Playing at Offshore Websites
Despite the lack of statewide regulations in India, gamblers from the country do enjoy playing online and typically do so via offshore gambling sites that operate under foreign licenses. The state authorities are not in the habit of prosecuting locals for playing at international websites.
With that said, their access is sometimes hindered, with some Indian gamblers having their payments declined or blocked. Other states are also expected to follow Sikkim’s example in the future by allowing for regulated online gambling.
As popular as they are, such activities have their opponents who argue gambling leads to a variety of issues such as money laundering, higher crime rates, and more corruption. On the other hand, those who embrace the idea of legalization strike back by insisting gambling would be a massive source of revenue that could only help rather than harm the state.
To boot, the introduction of a regulatory framework would result in fewer illegal gambling activities in the country. Hopefully, more Indian states would follow Sikkim’s example and loosen their tighter stance on online gambling, making room for well-regulated and safer gaming activities.