The legality of gambling can be difficult to track in countries where states have different regulations. This is the case with India and the country’s stance on gambling. Legality depends on how an activity is defined by the court which is shared by all states regardless of their different stances. Here’s a quick rundown of gambling’s legal position in India.
Two broad game categories
The most important element to how India identifies gambling is understanding how they categorize games. All games can fall into one of two broad categories: games of chance and game of skills. Skill-based games are always legal but luck-based entertainment are up for discussion.
Game of chance
Games of chance are identified by how results are always random. A novice can win against a veteran, even if they don’t know the rules. Witnesses will tell them if they win until they understand the rules enough to interpret the outcome. ‘Random result’ means that the outcome cannot be determined by any factor, removing the element of advantages if any. Most live casino games fall under this category except for poker which is considered a game of skill.
Game of skill
Games of skill require some form of knowledge or trait from a player to perform at a certain level. The skill disparity between two players determines the outcome. Meaning, someone who doesn’t know the rules of the game cannot compete or has a considerable disadvantage against a veteran. This category includes sports, board games, or any recreational activity for children.
The extent of gambling legalities in India
All games of skills are legal in India but games of chance have to be studied further. Complex laws were passed to ensure that every game of chance is identified properly and penalties are just. Fortunately, all of those laws can be simplified in a way that can at least warn citizens and tourists of what is allowed. Here is the simplification of gambling laws in India:
All casino games are legal in selected states
All games resembling a casino setting are banned from most of the country except for Goa, Sikkim, Nagaland, and Daman under Gambling Act 1887. Therefore, slot games, baccarat, and blackjack tables are prohibited in every other state. Gambling houses will be shut down then the owner and the visitors are penalized for participating in underground gambling. Online casinos are also not allowed unless they offer only games of skills.
Only lotteries are allowed in many states
Lotteries are games of chance by all accounts but it is allowed in a majority of states in India. It is a periodic offering rather than a game where one can spend hours playing. Lotteries are also used in many non-profit events, government or private, as a donation drive or promotion means.
Horse racing is legal in the country
Horse racing is legal in India because it is classified as a skill game. In this case, horse racing itself is considered a game of skill such as the horses’ speed and the jockeys’ understanding of their mount’s strengths. The law also acknowledges horse race betting as a skill game because the spectators also need to research matchups to guess the outcome.
Sports betting is tolerated for the most part
Unlike horse racing, other sports such as cricket and football are more complex. The matches are considered games of skills but the number of factors made sports betting a game of chance. Although not considered legal by all accounts, sports betting is tolerated in the country because there are no laws created to either regulate or prohibit it. Thanks to that and the absence of live casino games, sports betting is the number one gambling entertainment among Indians.