Online Gambling in India is in its infancy, and despite the outdated rules, remains one of the Worlds hidden gems in terms of opportunity for the gambling industry to their 1.3 billion people.
Although Gambling is classed as illegal depending on what city you’re in and what you’re gambling on, the city Sikkim had planned to offer three online gambling licences in 2010. This failed despite India being the most sought out country for online gambling.
Sikkim and Gambling
The city of Sikkim also permits an online lottery, which takes bets from players throughout India. It was expected that other states would follow Sikkim, thereby opening a major online gambling market throughout India.
Even though Indian casinos cannot promote or have sites that promote online gambling games such as casino, sports betting and bingo, it is not illegal for non-Indian casino companies (so called offshore companies) to have sites that focus on Indian players.
The only requirement from a legal point of view is that the offshore casinos have to offer Indian Rupees as a payment method for Indian players.
Gambling Regulation in India
The Information Technology Act 2000 regulates cyber activities in India does not mention the word Gambling or Betting thereby the act was left for interpretation by the Courts which have refused to examine the matter. Further, online gambling is a banned offense in the state of Maharashtra under the “Bombay Wager Act”.
States Allowing Casinos
Only three states allow casinos, Goa, Daman, and Sikkim. There are two casinos in Sikkim called Casino Sikkim and Casino Mahjong and 10 in Goa, of which six are land based and four are floating casinos that operate on the Mandovi River.
The floating casinos in Goa are Casino Deltin Royale, Casino Deltin Jaqk, Casino Pride and Casino Pride 2. While the first two are controlled by the Deltin Group, the latter two are managed by the Pride Group. According to the Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act, 1976 casinos can be set up only at five-star hotels or offshore vessels with the prior permission of the government. This has led the Deltin Group to open the first land-based Casino in Daman which is open now. News reports also suggest that Visakhapatnam is also being looked on as the next casino destination.
The penalty for being caught gambling online has been a fine of ₹ 90,000 per day since 2009.
Casino gaming is regulated under State wise anti-gambling laws in India (“Gaming Enhancements”). Under most gaming enhancements, casino games are treated as gambling activities in India, and are prohibited. This applies for both digital and land-based casino gaming.
The state of Sikkim has enacted a license regime to offer ‘online games’ through the intranet within the State of Sikkim, under the Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Act, 2008 (“Sikkim Act”). This license covers certain casino games like roulette, casino brag and blackjack.
The authority under the Sikkim Act is the Finance, Revenue and Expenditure Department.
Certain states have enacted licensing regimes for casino games:
Goa, Daman and Diu: The Goa Act prescribes a license regime for ‘games of electronic amusement/slot machines’ in 5 star hotels and table games and gaming on board offshore vessels, under the terms of a license in Goa, Daman and Diu.
Sikkim: The Sikkim Casino Act with Sikkim Casino Commencement (Control and Tax) Rules, 2007 (“Sikkim Casino Laws”) also prescribe a license regime for casino games in 5-star hotels in the state of Sikkim. This covers casino games such as roulette, casino brag, blackjack, however these games may be offered through the intranet within the State of Sikkim only.
Depending on the exact format of bingo, it can fall within the definition of a lottery, or under the general definition of gambling under most Gaming Enhancements, as it is a game of chance. In case of the latter, it would be prohibited in most Indian States.
If the betting is on games of chance, this is prohibited in most Indian States. These apply separately as casino games and sports betting or fantasy sports.
Sports/horse race betting
Betting on horse racing has been held to be a game of skill. There is no regulator for betting on horses online.
Only the State of Sikkim permits sports betting under a license through the intranet within the State of Sikkim only, under the Sikkim authority in Sikkim is Finance, Revue and Expenditure Department.
Fantasy betting (payment to back a ‘league’ or ‘portfolio’ selection over a period of time, for example in relation to sport shared)
Certain skills formats of fantasy sports should be exempt from the prohibitions under most Gaming Enhancements.
Only the State of Nagaland has enacted a license regime for virtual team selection games and virtual sport fantasy league games when offered online. The licensing authority in Nagaland is the Finance Commissioner.
Confusion on Gambling Online in India
While we can’t definitively state that you can legally gamble online in India, we don’t believe you should worry too much. You just need to make sure you use a site that’s reputable and trustworthy, and that accepts Indian customers.
We do have one word of warning though. The Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) 1999 was introduced to India in 1999 to govern the exchange of foreign currencies. Technically, depositing to a gambling site in a currency other than rupees could be considered an exchange of foreign currencies, and thus be covered by the act.
Depositing Methods for Players in India
Therefore, many Indians find it difficult to deposit at sites from their bank or by using a credit card. A popular solution to this problem is to use an e-wallet such as Neteller, Skrill, Paysafecard, Pay by Phone and PayPal.
Gambling in India is a growing industry and likely to continue, the hollow and outdated laws surrounding gambling, means all players can go by is either categorising the game as chance or skill based as well as if it’s online or land based. There are now a variety of gambling providers accepting players from India of which they’d have understood the laws prior to moving in, this also includes accepted payment methods.
Thee population and economic size of India as well as here nor there gambling laws, would mean this is a lucrative market for gambling based providers to target.