Recent intimations from local government officials across India tend to point toward a desire for gaming regulation on a national and regional basis.
However, there are concerns from industry bodies that serious, realistic, and responsible regulatory prospects nationwide still feel a long time off.
So, where is the lay of the land? What are the latest developments with gambling regulation in India? Is there an immediate future?
Gambling in India
Due to the Indian Constitution granting responsibility to individual states on betting and gambling legislation, there is no uniform approach throughout the country. Instead, state rules can fluctuate dramatically.
For example, land-based gambling houses can operate some activities in Goa – though online play is still prohibited. Some online gaming activity is allowed under varying conditions in Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Sikkim.
Several recent judgements have suggested a softening in the hardline anti-gambling stance in India.
Karnataka High Court Ruling
In February 2022, judges struck down an amendment to the law introducing a blanket ban on gaming in the state of Karnataka. A Division Bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Krishna S Dixit proclaimed: “The provisions are ultra vires of the Constitution and struck down.”
Tamil Nadu Supreme Court Ruling
The Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Act of 2021 moved to ban the playing of games such as rummy and poker for real money. However, the Supreme Court ruled that the introduction of a total ban violated the least intrusive test (Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution) that assures people the right to practice any profession.
Kerala High Court Ruling
In February 2021, the Kerala Government attempted to ban online rummy – arguing it does not escape from the general prohibitions related to gaming and gambling under Section 14A of the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960.
An appeal from a collection of online gaming companies was successful – the High Court ruled the ban unconstitutional, deeming it to breach Article 19(1)(g) and the right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution of India, which ensures the fundamental rights to trade and commerce.
Why A Blanket Ban Won’t Work
There is real anxiety among gambling industry observers that the issue has been politicized – but not for the benefit of its residents. A general consensus from industry observers is that by pontificating over the morality of classic gambling games like Teen Patti real cash, rummy, and Andar Bahar, more illegal betting rings are cropping up around the country as a result. Inevitably, experts argue, a thriving underground gambling sector leads to more dangerous situations for bettors, and more money lost in potential taxation.
Several leading proponents of safe and responsible gambling regulation reason that states arguing for a total ban on legalized gambling fail to produce any stats or scientific data that supports the thinking behind blanket bans. Conversely, there is a feeling that the principles of legalizing gambling in India are generally well thought through and reasoned.
A paper by the National Law Review (NLR) – described as a recognized source of legal analysis authored by today’s thought leaders – argues stringently for proper gambling industry regulation.
In its article, The Time for a Central Law for India’s Online Gaming Industry is Now, the NLR states:
“We believe that a Central law covering the above aspects will be very helpful for the future of the online skill gaming industry in India. A clear and well-regulated regime will also attract more foreign direct investment. In addition to giving this sector a boost, it will also bring in transparency and operator accountability towards Indian laws. It will also help consumers to enjoy gaming in a responsible, transparent and safe environment with regulatory oversight.”
Despite the apparent impasse between pro-regulatory voices and anti-gambling sentiments within the government, there remains a prevailing hope from those within the industry that there is real potential to create a competitive market for establishing the best online casino in India. In doing so, they argue, healthy industry rivalry will create jobs and boost of the national economy to the benefit of everyone.