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Need for uniformity in Indian gambling laws

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Do you gamble? Have you ever gambled? Despite being recognized as a pleasurable pastime, betting has always been linked to individuals of wayward character. This notion was propagated through the reign of Great Britain where gambling was completely outlawed.

The constitution-makers during the constitution-making process deemed it fit to include gambling in the state list to enable states to handle gambling as they saw fit, thus allowing states to make their own laws controlling gambling.

The Public Gambling Act of 1867 is a national legislation that prohibits managing a public gambling house. The fine for violating this prohibition is 200 rupee or imprisonment of up to 3 months. Furthermore, the Act outlaws going into betting houses. A penalty of 100 rupee or imprisonment of up to one month is imposed on anyone violating.[3]

There are no uniform laws governing gambling in India as each state has a leeway to formulate its laws for online betting games. Whereas states like Goa, Daman, and Sikkim have made laws legalizing casino betting (source), others like Maharashtra have banned such activities completely under the “Bombay Wager Act.”

However, even in the states that have legalized gambling, common activities such as organized betting are controlled except for categories including lotteries and horse racing.

In India just like in other countries across the world, more people are embracing online casino and betting as a way of making income. It is therefore undeniable that Indian authorities should start considering making laws that uniformly govern gambling activities across the country.

While opponents of betting games argue that it is a causative agent for crime, corruption, and money laundering, its supporters believe that cash betting can be a huge source of revenue for both the citizens and the state. For example, in Goa, the state minted Rs. 135 crores in the form of revenue in 2013.[1]

While the Information Technology Act 2000 that controls cyber activities in India does not expressly mention the word online gambling or casino betting, the constitution has generally categorized games into two broad groups; the game of skill and game of chance.

The lack of clarity in the laws has left the act open for interpretation by the Courts which have refused to examine the matter. Here is why we need uniformity in Indian Gambling laws;

Most states seem to have passed laws in favor of games of skill but are silent on those touching on the game of chance, thus causing a great deal of confusion. A uniform law at a national level is the only way out of this uncertainty.

Fulfilling the purpose of the Law

Amending the constitution to incorporate laws governing gambling would serve the core purpose of the constitution, which is to bring uniformity. A central law will address the concern of different states having different laws governing betting activities.

The evaluation of gambling has always been under a sharp focus, and its inclusion in the state list has made it more difficult to have any form of uniformity amongst state gambling laws. This has inhibited the development of uniform regulations. 

The coming in of online betting has further necessitated the much-needed comprehensive legislation with the ability to provide a uniform balance on the legality of gambling. Technology has made cross-state transactions easier hence the need for a uniform legislation to govern all users.

Effect on FDI

Online gambling has grown over the past few years in India, amassing Rs 43.8 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow to Rs 118.8 billion by 2023. 

This growth has attracted foreign investors who are however cautious of the current unstable legal situation Unpredictability such as the Telangana’s case where Clairvest suffered a loss of $11 million in one quarter due to a blanket ban imposed which made it un operational for nine days.[3] 

Such situations discourage other prospective investors from setting business in India.