On paper, gambling in India has been outlawed under the Public Gambling Act of 1867. By that token, playing at an online casino should be deemed illegal.
However, such a direct rule is impossible to apply in practice for three reasons:
- The Act makes no specific mention of “online casinos.”
- In India, gambling is a state subject.
- Online casinos active in India are run by international operators.
Let’s discuss the pointers in detail.
The Public Gambling Act criminalizes organizing, managing, and visiting a “common gaming house” as well as accepting, paying, or keeping records of money staked in gambling games.
It defines a “common gaming house” as a walled enclosure, a room, or even a place where cards, dice, tables, and other gaming instruments are kept and used for monetary benefits.
The Act, on the other hand, was drafted during the British Raj in the absence of the internet and was never amended. As a result, the concept of “online casinos” as such has been excluded from its scope.
It makes no mention of a “virtual” common gaming house, which is neither a walled enclosure, room, nor a location. It makes no mention of what happens when someone organizes, manages, or visits such a place and accepts, pays, or keeps track of money wagered in gambling games.
As a result, despite the shortcomings of the Public Gambling Act, we can confidently state that online casinos in India are legal. After all, the lack of an explicit law is not a loophole; it is the law.
As previously stated, the Public Gambling Act does not meet the modern-day requirements for regulating gambling activities. Recognizing this shortcoming, the federal government has granted individual states the authority to draft their own laws.
As a result, any Indian state may permit or prohibit gambling activities as it sees fit. That is how we have private physical casinos in Goa, Sikkim, and Daman, as well as public government lotteries in 13 states.
However, these laws were also drafted prior to the introduction of the internet in India in 1995. There are currently no federally approved Indian online casinos in the country.
The only attempt came from Sikkim’s Playwin lottery, which was run nationwide online by the Essel Group. It was, however, a government-approved lottery, not a casino. It eventually became insolvent and was forced to close its doors.
Similarly, India-based Dream11, My11Circle, and Mobile Premier League (MPL) are among the few betting platforms that somewhat conform to the definition of “online gambling.” Even so, they aren’t true casinos in the traditional sense, as they primarily cater to fantasy sports fans.
Enter the curious case of the selective legality of gambling games in India.
Under the country’s law, poker and rummy are legal because they are “games of skill.” Slot machines, blackjack, roulette, baccarat, and other casino classics, on the other hand, are considered “games of chance” and thus illegal.
For patrons of online casinos, this law is a classic case of “anything is better than nothing.” Using it, they have come up with poker-specific sites such as Pokerstars and Adda52 and rummy-specific sites such as Junglee Rummy and RummyCircle.
The State of Nagaland has even issued its first-ever poker-only license for a gaming website, Khelo365, which is India’s first licensed poker website. Although none of these sites are full-fledged online casinos, it’s better to have a lean jade than an empty halter.
This is where certain states have begun to use their federal power to prohibit or permit online casinos. Gambling is widely regarded as a social and economic evil in India, which is why the federal government will never allow a PAN-India casino.
Certain states have specifically formulated and implemented their own bans to ensure that the situation remains this way.
Online gambling, for example, is prohibited in Maharashtra under the Bombay Wager Act.
Similarly, Assam, Odisha, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Gujarat have refused to exempt skill-based games from the definition of gambling. All forms of casino games, whether offline or online, are illegal in these states.
To strengthen the rules even further, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have specifically prohibited online gambling. The Kerala State Government had to outlaw online Rummy in the past, but the ban was struck down by the Kerala High Court.
In a nutshell, the legal landscape is a huge mess. There is neither a specific, all-encompassing rule nor a blanket ban. Furthermore, all of the rules are currently applicable to casinos based in India. The federal government does not block IP addresses or websites located outside of India.
This is yet another reason international online casinos can be considered legal.
Legit online casinos of the likes of 10Cric, LeoVegas, Casumo, ComeOn! and PureWin that are active in India are run by international operators. They are not subject to Indian law.
Players wagering real money on them are technically playing outside India. Perhaps the only legal obligation of such casinos is that they must accept payments in Indian Rupees.
Long story short, unless the gambling laws of the country are rewritten, international online casinos will continue to be legal in India.