Last week, a law panel created to evaluate the state of sports gambling in India came out with its verdict. According to the majority of the panel, sports gambling should be legalised and regulated across the country to eliminate existing black markets. However, there was one holdout who believed that India was not ready for regulated gambling due to low levels of education and high levels of poverty.
The fact that a panel which had been designated to study this particular subject for a year could not come to a common consensus on the issue is indicative of its complexity. The problem arises from the fundamentals of the law. The colonial-era Public Gambling Act of 1867 forbid the practice, but upon independence the constitution stated that individual states and union territories could do what they wanted.
As of today, only Goa, Daman & Diu, and Sikkim have passed some forms of gambling laws. Goa is of course the most famous of these as they have leveraged their casinos into a tourist hotspot, but Sikkim’s decision to allow the founding of online, Indian-focussed gambling websites is the more revealing use. Due to the widespread nature of the internet, all Indians can now gamble online regardless of whether their state allows it or not.
This issue is further complicated by the distinctions in gambling on “skilled” games, i.e. is it really gambling if you can predict the outcome of the event? Due to varied historical interpretations of this distinction, we have been left with some odd results. While you are not allowed to gamble on most card games like Poker or Blackjack, you can bet on Rummy. Similarly, while the easily corruptible horse-racing tracks are admissible, sports like cricket and football are not.
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