Update: India’s Supreme Court will decide in the Fall of 2014 the legality of poker and other games of skill (rummy). Pokerstars is already said to be eyeing the country.
Yes. This is one of the most commonly asked questions from bettors in India, but also from operators looking to tap into the 1.2 million people and the largest growing middle class. As with all legal questions it is difficult to answer as India believes gambling to be “taboo”. Let me give you a break down of the laws that have occurred over the latest years.
Where Indians Bet Online
BET365.com – This is the main destination for punters from India who want to bet online. They have been successful in this small market because they allow you to bet with Rupees, and offer other methods to fund your account legally. It’s also probably the safest bookmaker out of the UK to service India.
Federal Information Technology Rules
This was the most recently introduced law by Indian government. As you can see by the title, it covers a vast array of anything on the internet in which they consider to be either illegal or taboo. Please note, there were no laws that actually made it illegal to allow online gambling by the states of India. Ok, so this FIT Act basically says if something is illegal or taboo the Internet Provider (ISP) must block such site. Can anyone say China? This type of censorship simply doesn’t work and hasn’t scared away people from India from betting online. They did the same in China and other Asian countries and it didn’t work which is why the USA uses different tactics to block betting so I’m not sure what they’re trying to accomplish.
Let’s go a little more in depth to this law.
- Gambling: Firstly it says “gambling” is illegal and therefore should be blocked. Gambling is the act of wagering on something where the outcome is uncertain, or is not a game of skill. Well the word gambling covers just about everything you place a bet on and many forms of gambling are skill.
- Poker: Ok so now we have to look at poker. It has been proven by many professionals and gaming experts that poker is in fact skill. There is no such evidence proving otherwise but many governments simply turn the other way and put online poker into “gambling”. Poker is skill, and skill games are NOT illegal in India.
- Sports: Online betting on sports can also be singled out. Sports bettors all over the world make a living sports betting. Some people have it down to such a science that bookies won’t even take their bet, or because the bettors are so good they can actually change the odds by how much they wager! Sportsbetting is skill therefore should it be covered under “gambling”?
- Casino: Online casino games are one form where it can actually be considered gambling. Fortunately for the way India’s laws are written it gives states the ability to allow what they want. This is why you see Sikkim offering games online such as horse betting and online lotteries.
Skill or Gambling; Anything we do in life can be based on luck or skill. As the saying goes, “you prepare yourself to get lucky”. Governments who preach that something is gambling or skill simply need to quit that as it leaves too much left for interpretation. If they want everything to be black and white they need to say ok, poker is skill, casinos (per game) are not and so on. Either way it is up to the states so this newly imposed website blocking will fail, there are too many ways around it.
The Public Gambling Act of 1867
That’s right my fellow Indians, we still have government trying to impose laws on us that happened before online betting even existed. The internet was no where near being invented when this law was passed, and yet many government officials try to point to it and say, hey look here, we DO have laws that make online betting illegal. False. Let me reiterate again, this is a Federal law and Sikkim allowed online betting after and during those past years. IT IS UP TO THE STATES, not outdated laws!
The Government Wants Legal Online Betting
Firstly the government says they want legal online betting in India because it would curb corruption with illegal bookies that have supposedly used match fixing to fund terrorism and crime. While this was the case, it is simply a front to put forth online gambling so that they can tax the heck out of it. The Internet Cricket Council (ICC) has been urging India to allow offshore companies such as those located in the UK to partner up with casinos in India to get a proper form of internet wagering in place. This is the complete opposite of the USA and the National Football League’s views which strictly want betting banned. This would allow for taxes to be collected, a watchdog for suspicious actives, and lastly allow India’s punters to do what they already do….to the sum of 8,000 Lakh Rupees.
Funding Option Laws To Consider (FOREX LAW)
There is a law in India that says it is illegal to fund online gambling sites without using Rupees. This law is called the Foreign Exchange Management Act. If you are to place a bet at an online bookmaker or gaming site you need to do so in Rupees. Only a few take Rupees in which you can fund and withdraw via the same currency so most players from India simply choose to use and electronic wallet. Examples of the most popular ones are Moneybookers, Paypal, and Neteller.
Unless an online betting site specifically blocks players from India which is pretty rare you can pretty much play anywhere you want. This puts this law out of business so to speak and for most it’s not an issue! The only thing gamblers from India have to worry about is if the major bookies or betting sites decide they have to leave India in order to get a full fledged license to advertise and operate in India in the future once it is completely regulated and legal.
Conclusion on Online Gambling Laws in India
As you can see there are too many holes in the governmental India betting laws. With a growing middle class, a huge population, and surrounding casino giants looking to make a stand in India it is only a matter of time before online licenses are given out to betting firms offshore to fully allow online betting in India (not that it doesn’t go on now)!