Is Online Gambling Legal In India?A Comprehensive Guide
Indian laws on online gambling is a complex subject. The complexity partly arises from how the judiciary works in the country—the central government does not have the power to create a national law on gambling and instead, it is left to the states to decide their own policy.
Since each state has the authority to impose gambling laws in its boundaries, the legality varies based on the state’s laws. The entire spectrum ranges from states where gambling (including online gambling) is prohibited to states where all forms of gambling are legal.
When it comes to online casinos and gambling, most states do not have any laws that prohibit it. At the central level, there is an old law called The Public Gambling Act, 1867 which is aimed at brick-and-mortar gambling houses and casinos. However, there is no law prohibiting online gambling at a central level.
Overview: Indian Laws and Online Gambling
Currently, states in India can be divided into three categories - unregulated, regulated, and prohibited depending on the laws they have enacted. As the map below and the table shows, the laws can vary based on where you are.
Here’s a more in-depth breakdown of the legality of gambling in different states in India:
Map: Online Gambling in India
Red: Prohibited, Yellow: Unregulated, Green: Regulated
States where gambling is prohibited
From a legal point of view, online gambling is prohibited only in Telengana, Karnataka, Andra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. These three states have passed legislature that make all forms of gambling illegal including games of skill like Poker and Blackjack, games of chance like Roulette, lotteries, etc.
For all the other states in the country, online gambling is not prohibited as long as the online casino supports INR as a currency and has anti-money laundering controls in place.
On the other hand, there are some states in India that have come up with legislation to regulate gambling instead of outright banning it.
States with dedicated laws on gambling
So far, three states have come up with dedicated laws for gambling via which they plan to regulate the industry. The states and the respective legislature are as follows:
- Nagaland - The Nagaland Prohibition of Gambling Act, 2015
This act prohibits all games of chances but offers a license structure for companies that offer games of skill like Poker and Rummy. As any Indian company can apply for a license, many consider it to be a national level license for online poker and rummy services but the act prohibits offering online gambling services in states where it is explicitly illegal.
- Sikkim - The Sikkim Online Gambling (Regulation) Act, 2008
Sikkim offers one of the most liberal laws when it comes to gambling. The state allows for both land-based and online casinos to operate within the state.
- Goa - The Goa Public Gambling Act, 1976
Similarly, the state of Goa is known for its longstanding liberal gambling policy. The state also allows physical casinos and online gambling within its jurisdiction.
It is also worth noting that while states like Sikkim are coming up with their licensing structure, international online casinos can still operate without a license as long as there is no central law preventing them from doing so. Once the online gambling company does register with the state authority, they will not be allowed to offer services to different states based on the license. This is why Sikkim has received tons of inquiries for physical casinos but the demand for online casinos has been limited due to the small local market.
Central laws that affect online gambling in India
As mentioned previously, there is no central level law that deals with online gambling on a federal level. However, there are a few laws that do and can potentially affect online gambling in the future if there are further amendments made to them. They are:
- The Public Gambling Act, 1867
The Public Gambling Act was passed when India was still under British control. The law prohibits states from operating gambling houses and citizens from playing in them. However, the law is considered outdated and all states have the power to write legislation that overrides it. Additionally, The Public Gambling Act does not prohibit games of skill and is only applicable to games of pure chance.
- The Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA)
The FEMA act regulates currency exchange and international trade on a federal level in India. Since most online casino sites operating in India are actually based offshore, some provisions of the act are applicable. This law affects payments the most naturally and all online casinos are required to support the INR as an in-game currency to comply.
- The Information Technology Act, 2000
The IT Act regulates all online activities in India on a federal level. However, the act is silent when it comes to online gambling. So while online gambling is an online activity, its absence from the act means it is not regulated by it. However, this can change in the future with amendments.
Should you be worried if you play at an online casino in India?
If your state does not explicitly prohibit online gambling, playing on online casinos in India is considered pretty safe. However, we would recommend keeping an eye on the news as regulations can drastically change the current legal regime.