Is online gambling/betting legal in India?

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A brief history

Gambling in its various forms, has a long and complex history in Indian culture, dating back thousands of years.  Many early Indian written documents reference gambling in various forms, including board games, card games, dice games, and betting on animal contests.  Indian gamblers through the centuries have enjoyed a variety of options to reap the entertainment value that gambling can provide to them.

Modern gambling in India has evolved to be a blend of Indian traditions and European influences.  The most popular games on today’s Indian gambling landscape include such traditional Indian games as Teen Patti and Andar Bahar balanced against such foreign imports as playing baccarat and betting on cricket.  In addition to impacting the selection of games available to players, European influences have also affected the legality of betting in India.

Geographical differences

At the national level, India’s gambling laws have historically focused their restrictions on bookmakers and gambling houses and placed little to no emphasis on the right to gamble for individual players.  That being said, the issue of whether to allow gambling or not has been delegated from the national legal arena to be the responsibility of each individual state. While over half of India’s employment continues to be in the agriculture sector, several Indian states have expanded their options for economic growth and given their residents more employment opportunities by legalizing gambling.

The states leading this gambling charge by explicitly legalizing it are Goa and Daman in the southwest and Sikkim in the northeast.  These three territories are dwarfed by their neighboring states in terms of both land area and population. In fact, these three states are occupied by fewer than three million residents combined.  And yet their relatively small populations have allowed these states to be ahead of the curve as India moves towards more widespread legalized gambling.

In-person vs. Online Casinos

The states that have legalized gambling have done so with a focus on in-person gambling done at casinos.  They are targeting the growth potential of tourism in their states for its economic benefits and using casinos as a tool to draw more tourists and bring about that growth.  The good news for the hundreds of millions of Indians who reside outside of these tiny states is that you are likely still able to gamble online wherever you are, through the miracle of online casinos. 

That’s because the online casinos you can access throughout India are not actually based in India, and so are not clearly subject to any gambling restrictions imposed by the Indian government.  India’s current gambling/betting laws are lagging behind the online gambling movement and do not address online gambling among their enumerated restrictions, so the legality of online gambling has essentially gone unaddressed at the national level.  Several states, including Delhi and Maharashtra, do have prohibitions on online gambling, so please consult your local regulations to ensure legality before engaging in any online gambling activities. 

Online casino options

Since the legal atmosphere around online gambling in India is so murky, many of the most popular gaming sites operate from outside the country and provide access to their platforms to Indian customers who likely don’t have a locally-provided option for the same services.  Several examples of popular providers who cater to Indian gamblers in this legal way are Bet365, Betway, and LeoVegas.

As noted above, all three of these providers maintain their operations outside of India in order not to run afoul of Indian authorities tasked with determining whether the online gambling service offered by Bet365, Betway, and LeoVegas is legal in India.  Bet365 does this by operating out of England, while Betway and LeoVegas both maintain their headquarters in Malta. All three of these popular sites have been in business for years, providing safe and legal gambling options to Indian players, although LeoVegas stands out above the others for their generous first-deposit bonus.

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Different treatment for different types of games

At the heart of any debate about the legality of gambling is the question of chance versus skill.  For many games, this question does not have a simple answer of one or the other. Instead, the balance between chance and skill exists on a spectrum and each game being considered will fall somewhere on that spectrum.  Each game has elements of chance and elements of skill in different amounts, so they naturally receive different treatments by the authorities in India who determine restrictions on those games. Games considered to be more chance than skill may be targeted for prohibition by those opposed to legal online gambling.

Games of chance

In the context of online gambling, slots are at the far chance end of the chance-skill spectrum.  A player is at the mercy of the spin in any slots game and the outcome will be the same if you make the spin or if your cat walks on your keyboard and makes the spin for you.  As the legal landscape of online gambling in India evolves, slots will be in a unique category for their high degree of chance compared to other games.  Slots exist and is legal on all three of the platforms mentioned above (Bet365, Betway, and LeoVegas). By the way, if this is your preferred type of game, then head over to LeoVegas, where the slots options far outnumber those offered at the Bet365 or Betway.

Games of skill

Distinct from the high-chance gambling that is slots, gambling on sports like cricket sits closer to the skill end of the chance-skill spectrum.  Consider a comparison between the two where the slots player is comparable to the player betting on a cricket match and the slots game itself is comparable to the teams playing that cricket match.  The outcome of a slots spin is entirely random, but the outcome of the cricket match is based on the skills (and possibly a little luck) of the athletes involved. That difference between games of chance and games of skill is a factor that will play a prominent role in the evolution of online gambling in India in the years to come.

Conclusion

Whether games of chance or games of skill are your preferred entertainment, online gambling and betting in India is legal in most areas and the rules around it will become more clear as more players and more providers enter the market.  As always, please consult your local regulations to ensure legality before engaging in any online gambling activities.

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