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Should India Legalise Online Gambling?

Gambling has existed in one form or another in India throughout its history. During British rule, laws were implemented to place controls on ‘games of chance’, in contrast to ‘games of skill’. These archaic laws are over 145 years old, and as most Indians know, the debate over opening up the laws or clamping down even further is hotly debated.

Adding to the confusion, there are state and federal laws that have culminated in some states legalising gambling. Here, you can find state-managed lotteries and land casinos, where the income derived from them is used in social projects. In Madras, income was used to fund the construction of Victoria Memorial Hall and the Rippon Building, which encouraged other states to view the potential benefits of legalising online gambling and sports betting.

International Online Casinos Accepting Indian Players

Online casinos and sportsbooks have increased in recent years, with a large number accepting players from India. Some even offer traditional games, like Andar Bahar, or are fronted by Bollywood celebrities like Sunny Leone.

One online casino Betfair was forced to close its site for Indian players earlier this year, urging users to withdraw any funds on the site by the end of January 2019. Access to the site is now restricted, although at the time they said they would honour pending sportsbook and matched Exchange bets through their customer service portal.

Despite Betfair’s withdrawal from India, not all online casinos have closed their virtual doors to Indian players. There are still many international casinos accessible to Indian nationals, completely legal, which you can find from casino review portals like onlinecasinoguide.in.

Are The Tables Turning?

The mobile revolution in India has dramatically altered the approach to gaming, gambling and betting. Figures are expected to grow from 201 million online gamers in 2016 to an expected 318 million in 2022. The All Gaming India Federation says that there are currently 120 million gamers in India and there has been a 30% increase over the last three years.

With no laws in place governing online gambling, there is concern expressed by Indian politicians over the adverse effects of this unregulated market. Increases in addiction, potential problems with money laundering, plus gambling revenue going out of India, is facilitating the call for the introduction of more regulations.

Controversy rages over the efforts to legalise gambling, with one politician Shashi Tharoor, introducing a private bill proposing regulating online gaming. Tharoor wants to preserve the integrity of sports. His proposed bill is in two parts, one to recognise and deal with sporting fraud. The second part is to introduce better online sports betting regulations to combat untoward commercial interest.

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The AIGF has also requested the Indian Government to take stronger measures against online casinos. Casinos that they say are “luring and accepting bets from Indian citizens” without local authorisation. The federation asked for the Government to crack down on the payment processing of nine named online casinos, that conduct payment between Indian betters and casinos. 

The pressure is on for a decision in the confusion that is the Indian gambling laws, including a push to inhibit online gambling to reduce “immoral activities”. This action is in marked contrast to how the rest of the world is regulating and exploring the financial opportunities that online gaming can offer.

Meanwhile, businesses are not slow to recognise the potential of online gaming with real money. Paytm, one of India’s leading digital payment platforms, and AgTech Holdings have come together. They have raised ₹110 crores to fund the development of GamePind, a mobile gaming startup offering exciting and rewarding games to their users. Sudhanshu Gupta, Chief Operating Officer of Gamepind, is quoted as saying how excited they are to be part of the multi-million-pound opportunity in India.

What Will Happen Next?

No-one can give a clear answer to that question. India has been somewhat of an ostrich about online gambling. Even before the tech revolution, calls were made by the chairman of the ICC in 2011 to legalise gambling and remove it from the hands of the criminal underworld.

No real changes have been made to this grey area, but parties for and against legalisation, are gathering momentum. Sooner than later, the Indian Government will have to clarify the issue. As to which way it will go, it depends on who you listen to. For the moment, international online casinos and sportsbooks are continuing to operate, and Indian players are continuing to bet!

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