Gambling regulation in India is left to the respective states. The Public Gambling Act was passed back in 1867 and is often referenced as the central law. According to this act, running/operating a public gambling house is illegal. However, various states have different legal forms of gambling. India recognized two main categories of games as follows:
- Games of Chance – Refers to games played randomly without prior knowledge or understanding. Dice, slots, and RNG-based games are considered illegal under the Public Gambling Act.
- Games of Skill – Refers to games that require previous knowledge and understanding of the make. Games of skill require logical thinking, analytical decision making, and other skills and are legal in most Indian states.
In this review, we explore state-by-state gambling authorities with a focus on what the gambling regulations explain about gaming products, betting, and lotteries.
Gaming products can be divided into casino games, poker, and bingo.
Casino games include slots and table games like roulette, blackjack, baccarat, and other card and board games. They are regulated under Gaming Enactments and treated as a gambling activity in most states. However, the state of Sikkim passed the Sikkim Online Gaming Act in 2008, ushering in a new era of legal casino gaming. The act allows the Sikkim Finance, Revenue, and Expenditure Department to regulate online games offered through the intranet, and licensed operators can provide various options, including roulette, blackjacks, and casino brag.
The state of Sikkim also regulates casino gaming in land-based casinos index the Sikkim Casinos Act of 2002. The Tourism Department is responsible for regulating casino games in land-based casinos. Other states that regulate land-based casino games are Goa, Daman, and Diu. In Goa, the regulation is left to the Home Department under the Goa, Daman, and Diu Public Gambling Act of 1976. Daman and Diu are also regulated under this act. However, the responsibility is given to the Director of Tourism.
Poker is considered a game of skill and not regulated in most states. Nagaland is the only state that regulates online games of skill through the Finance Commissioner. According to the Nagaland Act, 2016 (Nagaland Prohibition of Gambling and Promotion and Regulation of Online Games of Skill), poker is illegal in the state. However, the game is argued as legal in all the other states. Land-based poker games are also seen as games of skill and therefore legal in most states.
Bingo comes in different formats, which determine whether or not it is legal in a particular state. If the bingo format falls within the definition of a lottery, it is considered legal in most states, in both online and land-based casinos. On the other hand, if the format falls under the general definitions of gaming enactments in your state, it is illegal and prohibited in online and offline casinos.
Betting is a generic term associated with sportsbooks and other forms of betting on casino gaming.
Betting on games of chance, such as casino games, is prohibited in most Indian states except for those mentioned above (Sikkim, Goa, Daman, and Diu). On the other hand, betting on sports, horse races, fantasy sports, and other options are covered by different regulations.
Sports/ horse race betting
Sports betting is legal in Sikkim under the Sikkim Act enforced by the Finance, Revenue, and Expenditure Department. However, sports betting position as a game of skill is still pending approval from the Supreme Court of India and is legal only in Sikkim. Conversely, horse race betting (if regulated separately from other forms of sports betting) can be argued as a game of skill and is legal in most states. Currently, there's no regulation for horse race betting. Players can make bets through Turf Clubs (racecourses that host the matches), which regulate horse race betting. The Turf Clubs operate under licensing legislation in their respective states.
Some formats of online fantasy betting are considered games of skill and legal in most states, except for the state of Nagaland. However, other formats are games of luck and prohibited by state enactments. Fantasy betting often applies only to online casinos.
Lotteries organized by the states are legal in India. Some formats are considered games of skill and legal in most states, except for Nagaland, which has enacted a licensing regime for online games of skills. Sikkim regulates land-based lotteries, while Punjab permits online lotteries. Other states, like Madya Pradesh, have banned lotteries altogether. Bihar also banned lotteries through the Bihar Ban on Lottery Act of 1993. Some states, like Andhra Pradesh, Kamataka, Gujarat, and Maharashtra permit non-profit lotteries. Nonetheless, lotteries, especially those organized by the state governments are generally considered legal in India.
Key Takeaways about Gambling Regulation In India
As aforesaid, the gambling laws in India permit the respective state governments to formulate their regulations. Here are key takeaways.
- Gambling is legal via a license in Sikkim, Nagaland, Goa, Daman, and Diu.
- Gambling is illegal based on the law in Telangana, Andra Pradesh, and Maharashtra.
- Land-based gambling requires a license or is illegal based on state laws.
- Horse racing is legal throughout India.
- Lotteries are legal in Kerala, Sikkim, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab, Assam, Manipur, Maharashtra Mizoram, West Bengal, Meghalaya, and Nagaland.
- Games of skill are illegal in Telangana and Arunachal, according to the Telangana State Gambling Act of 1974.
- The Bombay Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887 banned gambling in Maharashtra.
- E-Gaming is legal in Sikkim and Nagaland
Since the Public Gambling Act of 1867, many states have come up with unique regulations to govern gambling and betting activities in their jurisdictions. As such, it is vital to check your state laws. There's no consensus on what is or isn't legal. Some states have legalized both games of skills and games of chance, while others have banned all forms of betting, except for non-profit social gambling. That said, no regulation prohibits players in India from joining offshore casinos, which opens doors to a myriad of international and independent online casino brands. On the other hand, land-based gambling is illegal throughout India, except for a few states like Sikkim, Goa, Daman, Diu, and Nagaland.