Online gaming and betting is an industry that has seen both a rise in popularity amongst users as well as added scrutiny from the government authorities in the past few years in India. That’s because up until recently, the online betting industry has existed outside the purview of Indian law.
The Public Gambling Act of 1867, which has been adopted by most Indian states, only prohibits gambling done in physical public houses and does not restrict any online gambling or skill games from being played.
This means that in most of the country, online betting is not illegal, which means that people can freely play real-money games online, without landing themselves in legal trouble. However, this also means that the use of betting sites and online casinos is largely unregulated and unsupervised.
While the online betting industry keeps growing in its popularity, its unregulated status may be a threat to the safety of its users. Money laundering, as well as fraudulent transactions, are all dangers that users can expose themselves to if the online betting industry is not regulated and controlled by strict legislation soon.
However, things seem to be going in the right direction for the entire industry, with recent changes in policies that some states have taken recently. For example, the state of Maharashtra has considered the possibility of legalizing and regulating the online gambling industry, not only to protect the users but also to generate a lot of revenue for the state by taxing the transactions in the online betting sector.
As per the report created by the committee in Maharashtra, the state could earn as much as Rs. 25,000 crores in revenue, if they were to legalize and regulate the industry. This would be a much-needed boost for the Indian economy, which is already suffering from the pandemic and its resulting factors.
Additionally, the Madras High Court has also recently shot down the Tamil Nadu law which had sought to put a blanket ban on online rummy and poker games. As per the Madras HC, rummy and poker are counted as skill games, and thus cannot be banned in such a manner. Since rummy is allowed to be played physically as well, the Madras HC removed the recent amendment made to the Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws Act.
The Madras High Court has instead advised the state government to regulate or supervise cyberspace for the various online gaming transactions to keep it free from dangerous or suspicious activity.
Last but not least, Shashi Tharoor has also recently introduced a new gaming bill known as the Sports (Online Gaming and Prevention of Fraud) Bill. In this bill, the Member of Parliament has proposed the making of a regulatory body, which would oversee the various activities of betting platforms as well as track any suspicious activities.
As per this newly proposed bill, the aim is to make sure that any and all service providers follow licensing requirements. This would regulate online sports betting activities, not only safeguarding users from fraud but also increasing government control on the money flow in this industry to ensure that money laundering activities are at a minimum.
While the online betting industry is still largely unregulated in India, it is evident from the recent steps that have been taken, that we may soon be on the right track to getting the right legislation for the sector.