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Gambling Laws in India

Vegas as a pilgrimage of Gambling seems to have overflowed… Gambling is today a prevalent activity not only in the West but also in India. One of the major tourist attractions in Goa is popularly known to be gambling upon oceanic waters in the middle of nowhere!! In the recent times gambling has become a talk in the legal fraternity as well. With so many recent judgements depicting a collective opinion of the society towards segregating illegal gambling from its legal forms and protecting games like Rummy and others we review the laws related to gambling in different states in India.

Gone are the days when the society considered gambling and betting as a taboo. In today’s modern times gambling is a major tourist attraction. However, on a cautious note, any practice in the society, whether good or bad, if not regulated by the State will soon find itself spiraling down towards becoming a taboo. Gambling is no exception to this. Gambling is the wagering of money or any other valuables upon the contingency of an uncertain event. According to Black’s Law Dictionary[1]  “gambling involves, not only chance, but a hope of gaining something beyond the amount played. Gambling consists of consideration, an element of chance and a reward”…… Gambling in a nut-shell is payment of a price for a chance to win a prize”.

There is hardly any form of society in the world which was able to rid itself of gambling and its vices as there will always be someone or the other yearning for easy money! Gambling in itself is not the problem, the problem lies with its addictiveness and ancillary practices and lack of holistic legislations regulating it.

Legality- Skill v. Chance:

Gambling is a generic term. There are numerous different forms of gambling. As far as legality is concerned, not all of them are illegal. The Supreme Court has held that unless it is purely a game of chance, it is not illegal. The whole essence of gambling is playing by “chance”. However, according to the Supreme Court, even though the most important aspect of gambling is chance it does not mean that it is completely devoid of skill. Games which require skill up to a certain degree, and such games will not be illegal.

In K.R. Lakshmanan v. State of Tamil Nadu[2], the Supreme Court defined a ‘game of skill’ to mean “one in which success primarily depends on the superior knowledge, training, attention, experience, and adroitness of the player”. Games like golf, horse race betting and chess are considered to be “games of skill”. It is interesting to note that even if horse race betting is assumed to require skill, betting in Cricket is prohibited even though the required skill set is substantially similar.

‘Rummy’ was held to be a game of skill as considerable skill was required in “fall of the cards had to be memorized”, and “holding and discarding cards”.[3]

Related Articles:

Delhi High Court says that Playing Rummy with Small Stakes In A Club Would Not Amount To Gambling


For more information Gambling Laws in India, please write to us at info@ssrana.com or submit a query.

To know more about Gaming Laws in India, click on the links below:

Gaming & Sports Law in India

Online Gaming in India

Gambling Laws in India

Sports Law in India


[1] (Sixth Edition)

[2] 1996 AIR 1153, 1996 SCC (2) 226

[3] State Of Andhra Pradesh v K. Satyanarayana & Ors 1968 AIR 825

GAMBLING LAWS FAQs

Understanding the regulation of Online Gaming in India

Placing bets through online medium is a flourishing practice amongst gamblers in recent times. Gambling laws however do not cover online gambling. The problem arises when a server in a place where gambling is legal, makes dealing with users at places where it is illegal. It becomes difficult to trace extra territorial servers and penalize offenders. Moreover, the basic laws about online gambling itself are not legislated by the states. As of now there is no specific law in India which bans an individual customer from placing an online bet with a bookmaker based outside India even though the Acts such as Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007 and FEMA regulate payments made for participating in online betting. It is pertinent to note that Sikkim is the first State to legislate on online gambling vide Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Act, 2008.

The Sikkim Online Gambling Rules, 2009 provide under Rule 3 for 13 games which may be played online in the manner provided under these Rules. These are, Roulette, Black Jack, Pontoon, Punto Banco, Bingo, Casino Brag, Poker, Poker Dice, Baccarat, Chemin-de-for, Backgammon, Keno, Super Pan 9. Rule 5(2) provides that the license granted shall be valid for a period of one year which may be renewed for a further period of one year on payment of a renewal fee of one lakh rupees. The rules deal with different aspects such as applications for operating gambling website and advertisement which can be put up on the website.

The most recent legislation on gambling came out this year in the State of Nagaland. The Nagaland Prohibition of Gaming and Promotion and Regulation of Online Games of Skill Act, 2016 (Gaming Act) issues a license to conduct “games of skill” (on websites, mobile platforms, television or any other online media) to a person, firm, company or limited liability company (LLC) incorporated in India which is substantially held and controlled in India. This Act also exhaustively defines ‘a game of skill’ as inter alia that “having preponderance of skill over chance.”

Gaussian Network Private Limited v. Monica Lakhanpal and Another:

The petitioner company proposed to launch a website offering 6 games viz. Chess, Billiards, Texas Holdem Poker, Bridge, and Snooker. Vide the petition filed before the Delhi District Court under Order 36 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, the petitioner sought the Court’s opinion so as to ensure that they were not violating any laws by operating games which may amount to betting or gambling.

Amongst other contentions made by the parties, it was argued that there are World Championships organised for the games of Rummy, Chess, Poker, Billiards and Bridge which fortifies their claim that these are games of skills. It was further brought to the notice of this court[1] that some of the top Management and Technology universities have recognized Poker as an accredited academic subject. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of Maryland etc. are amongst the top ranking world universities, offer poker as an academic course.

The Court opined that when skill based games are played for money in virtual space, the same would be illegal and observed that the degree of skill in games played in a physical form cannot be equated with those played online as the degree of chance substantially increases because various manipulations including the randomness, inside cheating, collusion cannot be ruled out, when the same games are played in the virtual space.

It is pertinent to note that this decision of the District Court, was challenged before Delhi High Court. As part of the Appeal a copy of the RTI information has also been placed on record, obtained from the Government of Nagaland, Department of Justice and Law wherein the answer to the query was that the games of poker, rummy and bridge involve skill and are not gambling as per the provisions of the Gambling Act, 1867.

However, on April 21, 2016 the appeal was withdrawn by the plaintiffs and accordingly the High Court noted that the District Court’s above judgement would not survive.

For more information Gambling Laws in India, please write to us at info@ssrana.com or submit a query.

To know more about Gaming Laws in India, click on the links below:

Gaming & Sports Law in India

Online Gaming in India

Gambling Laws in India

Sports Law in India


[1] District Court in Gaussian Network Private Limited v. Monica Lakhanpal and Another (Suit No 32/2012, Delhi District Court

Category: gambling-faq

In India, the central law governing gambling is the Public Gambling Act, 1867. It is one of the oldest Acts, as the name suggests. Hence new forms such as online or international gambling are not covered under the Act. Moreover, it is covered under Entry 34 of the State List in the Constitution. Hence, every state has the power to legislate its own laws. The States where it is extensively practiced are Sikkim and Goa. In fact, Goa and Sikkim together make up for almost 90% of all the legal gambling that takes place in the country.

States allowing games of skill:

Some states have gone ahead and regulated the laws relating to gambling, betting, fixing etc.

Goa has made it legal on land and even off-shore, but only for Five Star establishments which have a government permit/license. Such license may be obtained at a very substantial fees under the Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act, 1976.

The Sikkim Regulation of Gambling (Amendment) Act, 2005 gives the Sikkim Government the authority to authorise with prescribed regulating conditions. This has made Sikkim the second state to facilitate it after Goa. It has become a great tourist attraction.

 In Delhi, under the Delhi Gambling Act, 1955 ‘gaming’ includes all types of wagering or betting except on horserace when such wagering or betting takes place on the day on which such race is to be run and in an enclosure which the stewards controlling such race have with the sanction of the State Government set apart for the purpose, and also does not include a lottery. Where even if a setup for gaming including things like cards, dice, counters, money or other instruments of gaming are found, there will be presumption of gambling until otherwise is proven. Such person shall be liable to imprisonment up to three months and shall also be liable to fine up to hundred rupees.

In West Bengal their Act[1] specifically excludes ‘games of cards like Bridge, Poker, Rummy or Nap’ from its definition of “gaming and gambling” and allows the organization of such games on procuring a permit from the Commissioner of Police in Calcutta or the District Magistrate or the Sub-divisional magistrate when such game is played in any public place.

States prohibiting gambling in any form:

In different states like Assam and Orissa, however, have prohibited any form of betting or gambling. When a license is issued, it is given to a certain entity organizing activity including its organization, management or promotion or negotiation or receipt of bets. As far as licensing in gambling is concerned, there are no separate personal and premises licenses in India.

For more information Gambling Laws in India, please write to us at info@ssrana.com or submit a query.

To know more about Gaming Laws in India, click on the links below:

Gaming & Sports Law in India

Online Gaming in India

Gambling Laws in India

Sports Law in India


[1] THE WEST BENGAL GAMBLING AND PRIZE COMPETITIONS ACT, 1957

Category: gambling-faq

Foreign investment and foreign technology collaboration in any form are completely prohibited in the gambling and betting sector.

The Supreme Court in Dr. R. K. Lakshmanan (supra) held that horse racing is a game of mere skill within the meaning envisaged under the Madras City Police Act, 1888 and Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, 1930. The Court explained through various instances how horse racing can be considered a game of skill as the betting in horse races are based on evaluative skills and various other factors like skill and management of the jockey.

On 1 August 2009 the State of Sikkim Government posted the Sikkim On-line Gaming (Regulation) Amendment Rules, 2009, which makes changes to the Sikkim On-line Gaming (Regulation) Rules, 2009

In short, this act made online sports betting in the state of Sikkim legal. However to offer sports betting a gambling license is required under the terms presented in various Acts, amendments and memorandums issued by the Government of Sikkim

1 August 2009 – In addition to adding sports betting the Sikkim On-line Gaming (Regulation) Amendment Rules, 2009 made several other changes. The one worth noting is the licensing period became 5-years requiring a 5 lakh payment for approved applicants (about $10,000 US).

20 August 2009 – The original Sikkim On-line Gaming (Regulation) Act, 2008 itself was amended to add Sport Gaming to the text. A separate memorandum was also issued to clarify all gaming laws in order to make it clear sport betting is now legal in the state. Once again however a license is required to offer “sport gaming”.

Sports betting is also on the roadmap in India, pending the report of the Law Commission of India, due to be released shortly.

The Law Commission is currently studying sports betting with a view recommending whether or not to regulate. According to lawyers speaking at the conference, legal interpretations of current court rulings related to horse race betting could mean sports betting coming under the definition of games of skill.

An early ruling came in 1957 where Horse Race Betting was determined a skill:

“The expression “gaming” in the two Acts has to be interpreted in the light of the law laid-down by this Court in the two1957 cases, wherein it has been authoritatively held that a competition which substantially depends on skill is not gambling. Gaming is the act or practice of gambling on a game of chance. It is staking on chance where chance is the controlling factor. “Gaming” in the two Acts would, therefore, mean wagering or betting on games of chance. It would not include games of skill like horse racing”.

Rule 4 of these rules says

“The intermediary, on whose computer system the information is stored or hosted or published, upon obtaining knowledge by itself or been brought to actual knowledge by an affected person in writing or through email signed with electronic signature about any such information as mentioned in sub-rule (2) above, shall act within thirty six hours and where applicable, work with user or owner of such information to disable such information that is in contravention of sub-rule (2). Further the intermediary shall preserve such information and associated records for at least ninety days for investigation purposes…”

Rules 3 (b) and 4 make it abundantly clear that any gaming website is illegal and would have to be shut down. Thus, websites based out of Sikkim or any other part of the world can be disabled/made inaccessible to Indians when the names of such websites come to the knowledge of Indian authorities.

Thus, as such even though the State of Sikkim as a separate state of India has the Constitutional right to regulate aspects relating to betting and gambling (as per entry No. 34 of List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution), the pan- India and also extra-territorial applicability of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (as per Section 1 of the Act) and the rules created thereafter; make these rules applicable across India, including Sikkim.

You might also run into problems trying to use PayPal, Entropay or even Neteller, all of which have had problems with India.

And you can thank the Payment and Settlement Act, 2007 for that. This was signed into law on December 20th, 2007 by Madame President Patil.

This law gives the Reserve Bank of India the ability to regulate all forms of electronic payments. The most important part of the law states that:

Payment system not to operate without authorisation : (1) No person, other than the Reserve Bank, shall commence or operate a payment system except under and in accordance with an authorisation issued by the Reserve Bank under the provisions of this Act

For more information Gambling Laws in India, please write to us at info@ssrana.com or submit a query.

To know more about Gaming Laws in India, click on the links below:

Gaming & Sports Law in India

Online Gaming in India

Gambling Laws in India

Sports Law in India



Category: gambling-faq

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