The legal status of both land-based and online gambling in India is rather complex. The main reason for this is that India, the second most populous country in the world, consists of 27 states, all of which has its own government. While the central government of India used to have larger importance, state governments have grown increasingly stronger and more independent. As a result, gambling laws in India vary from state to state.
The first law to take into consideration regarding the legal status of gambling in India is the 1867 Public Gambling Act.* This was a law introduced while India was under British rule. The law states that both owning and being found in a public a gaming house is illegal and punishable by a fine or imprisonment. Games of mere skill are excluded from the act.
The legal status of poker is somewhat controversial (see poker in India below), but the general consensus seems to increasingly that poker is a game of skill and thus legal. Horse racing in India is also considered a game of skill, which means it is not prohibited. States are allowed to operate a lottery in accordance with the 1998 Lotteries Act**, but not all states have their own lottery. Casino gambling is also allowed in a few states, but generally illegal in the country.
Online gambling in India is not specifically regulated. It is generally considered illegal based on the general prohibition of (brick and mortar) gambling, but there have been practically no reports of the law enforced when it comes to online gambling.
A single Indian state, Sikkim has its own online gambling regulation, the Sikkim On-line Gaming (Regulation) Act, 2008 – followed by the regulation regarding online gambling licences. The act allows Roulette, Blackjack, Pontoon, Punto Banco, Bingo, Casino Brag, Poker, Poker Dice, Baccarat, Chemin-de-fer, Backgammon, Keno, and Super Pan 9 games to be played online.
Online sports betting was later added to the games legal in Sikkim as well. The first online gambling licence was issued to the online lottery operator PlayWin. Several other Indian states are looking to legalise online gambling as well, though none have acted yet.
While gamblers playing on foreign online gambling sites are not actively prosecuted, they still face difficulties. Sites are often blocked by ISPs, and payments with Visa and MasterCard may fail. As a result, many Indian gamblers use alternative payment methods and intermediaries to deposit.
*Source:The Public Gambling Act, 1867.
**Source: The Lotteries (Regulation) Act, 1998
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- Casino gambling in India
- Bingo in India
- Poker in India
- Sports betting in India
- Lottery in India
- Bitcoin gambling in India
- Online gambling websites accepting players from India
Casino gambling in India
Online casino gambling in India: unregulated
Land-based casino gambling is illegal in most of India, as decreed by the 1867 Public Gambling Act. There are currently two states (Sikkim and Goa) and one union territory (Daman) where casino gambling is legal. These states host both “traditional” and floating casinos that are located on cruise ships.
Online casino gambling is not specifically regulated in India, but it is generally considered to be illegal as well. There is only one state where online gambling is legal and regulated, Sikkim. Although online casino gambling was legalised in 2009, the first “real” online casino gambling licence was only issued in 2014.*
Indian gamblers playing on international online casino gambling sites are generally not prosecuted. However, accessing the sites and depositing money to them may prove difficult.
Bingo in India
Online Bingo in India: unregulated
Bingo is a game of chance, which means it is illegal in most states of India. The game is likely legal in the states where casino gambling is – Sikkim and Goa – but there are no reports of any bingo halls in operation, nor of the casinos offering bingo games.
Online bingo is not specifically regulated in India, but it is generally considered to be illegal as well. Bingo is likely legal in Sikkim, the only state that has regulated online gambling. However, to date, no online bingo operators have been issued licences.
Indian gamblers playing on international online bingo sites are generally not prosecuted. However, accessing the sites and depositing money to them may prove difficult.
Poker in India
Online Poker in India: not regulated
The legal status of poker in India is rather delicate. According to the 1867 Public Gambling Act, games of mere skill are excluded from the ban on gambling. While poker is not entirely a game of skill, the Supreme Court of India ruled that when a substantial amount of skill is involved, it is not considered gambling.
The legal status of poker was affirmed in 2013 when, after a poker club was raided for illegal gambling and both operators and players were prosecuted. The High Court ruled in the club’s favour, stating that poker is a game of skill, and the club was entitled to conduct games.
Online poker is likely also considered a game of skill which means it is legal, but most of the states do not issue online gambling licences at all. The only exception is Sikkim, but even in Sikkim very few online gambling licences have been issued, which means there is no abundance of Indian online poker sites.
Indian gamblers playing on international online poker sites are generally not prosecuted, and many poker sites welcome players from India. However, accessing the sites and depositing money to them may prove difficult.
Sports betting in India
Online sports betting in India: unregulated
Sports betting is extremely popular, however, most forms of it are illegal in most states. The only type of sports betting in India that is generally legal is horse race betting. Horse races were ruled by the Supreme Court in 1996 to be games of skill and thus allowed.
Online sports betting is legal in Sikkim (which likely means that land-based is as well). However, to date, no online sports betting licences have been issued. Indian gamblers playing on international online sports betting sites are generally not prosecuted, and many online sportsbooks welcome players from India. However, accessing the sites and depositing money to them may prove difficult.
Lottery in India
Online lottery in India: legal in some states
Indian states are free to determine the legal status of lotteries within their own jurisdiction. Currently 12 states allow land-based lotteries: West Bengal, Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Sikkim, Goa, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland. The largest lottery operator in India is playwin, available in several states.
Playwin is also the only licensed online lottery in India, having received its permit from the state of Sikkim in 2009. Its website is available in many Indian states, though illegal in those where lotteries are banned. Indian gamblers playing on international online lottery sites are generally not prosecuted, and many online lotteries welcome players from India. However, accessing the sites and depositing money to them may prove difficult.
Bitcoin gambling in India
Bitcoin gambling in India: unregulated
Bitcoin is not regulated in India, to the point where the Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, K. C. Chakrabarty explicitly stated that there were no plans to regulate the virtual currency.*
Bitcoin gambling is not specifically regulated by Indian laws. It is generally considered illegal, as all forms of gambling are banned by the 1867 Public Gambling Act. Indian gamblers playing on Bitcoin gambling sites are very unlikely to be prosecuted. However, accessing the sites and depositing money to them may prove difficult.
Online gambling websites accepting players from India
Most forms of online gambling are legal in at least one Indian state. In most states of India online gambling is not regulated, and in none of them it is illegal. It is not surprising that many international online gambling websites accept players from India.
The following online casinos, online poker websites, online bingo sites and online sportsbooks accept players from India.
Online casinos – India
The following online casinos accept players from India.
Online sportsbooks – India
The following online sportsbooks accept players from India.
Online poker websites – India
The following online poker websites accept players from India.
Online bingo – India
The following online bingo websites accept players from India.
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Last updated: 2015.11.06.