In many parts of the world, people can enjoy the freedom to bet on all kinds of sporting, financial, and economic events. They can easily go to their local bookmaker or the Internet and place the bets they want. However, in some nations, betting is heavily restricted and often illegal.
India is one such example of a country where betting is punishable by the full force of the law. But, with today’s evolving Internet betting technology and changing consumer needs, is the betting industry still under heavy restriction in the South Asian country? And, if so, will things ever change?
Here’s a brief history of betting in India, what things are like today, and how the industry will likely shape the future of gambling legislation.
The Public Gambling Act of 1867
Back in the 19th century, India created a law known as The Public Gambling Act of 1867. In a nutshell, it’s a central government law that describes how the ten British-controlled states at the time outlawed gambling. Eventually, The Public Gambling Act of 1867 would cover all other states in India.
The problem with that Act is that there are a lot of grey areas in its interpretation. Don’t forget that it was a law passed well before the World Wide Web got invented, and the rising popularity of sports betting.
Legally Illegal: The Present State Of Betting In India
Fast forward to 2017 and little has changed when it comes to the legality of betting in India.
The country’s former colonial rulers, the United Kingdom, regulate Britain’s betting industry and have a government department, the Gambling Commission, to oversee and licence gambling operators. Many Indians believe that their country should follow the UK’s suit of legalising betting, as it will force illegal bookmakers to close down. Plus, it can also be a lucrative source of income for the government.
In 2000, India introduced the Information Technology Act 2000. Part of this digital act makes it illegal for people in the country to set up or use online betting websites. The punishment for doing so is more severe than with offline gambling houses or bookmakers. For example, if convicted, one could face a penalty of US$1,550 or spell in prison of up to five years!
The trouble with the Information Technology Act 2000, or rather the part that criminalises online betting, is that it’s hard to enforce.
Thanks to the plethora of VPN (Virtual Private Networking) providers online, one can easily disguise their online presence and appear to be connecting from another country. Using a VPN also masks any data sent or received through an ISP (Internet Service Provider) as the information transmitted is encrypted. With that in mind, many online betting sites offer their services to Indian residents.
Today, much of India’s 1.25 billion citizens enjoy betting on sports such as cricket and horse racing, despite it being a criminal activity according to the law. Savvy Internet users have found it easy to exploit the loopholes in the country’s law, enabling them to use “offshore” betting providers. Plus, they can often deposit money and withdraw winnings via a digital wallet service.
What Does The Future Hold For India’s Online Betting Industry?
On a state level, Goa, Daman, and Sikkim allow offline gambling in the form of casinos. The Himalayan state of Sikkim had planned to offer online gambling licences back in 2010, but the idea never became a reality. At the time, India’s betting industry was worth around $60 billion – half of which consists of bets from illegal bookmakers.
Presently, the state of Sikkim allows online lottery websites and so it looks likely that will be the first state to eventually allow online betting too. However, no-one knows for sure when that is going to happen.