Does the Indian Government Regulate Casinos and Gambling?

The Indian Government regulates only those casinos that are located in the country. Whether online or offline, international casinos are not subject to the gambling laws and regulations defined under the Constitution of India. Furthermore, gambling is a State subject, which divides the attention of the Center, 29 States and 7 Union Territories depending on the type of gambling activity, game, and medium. Let’s get into the details.

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Types of Gambling Activities and the Authorities that Regulate Them – September 2021

If you ask whether the Indian Government regulates casinos, I’d say the answer is not straightforward. It depends on what a casino operator is offering. To begin with, here’s a view of who regulates what in India.

Venn diagram of how indian government regulates gambling
Respective state governmentsRespective state & Central governmentCentral government
Casino gamesLotterySocial games without real money prices
Table gamesBingo
Live casino games
Poker
Skill games without element of chance
Skill games and betting
Horses and sports
Fantasy sport

Gambling

Casino (Slots, Live Dealer Games, and Table Games including Roulette and Blackjack)

Online Regulator: Respective State Governments

Explanation for online

Under the Public Gambling Act 1867, gambling houses and activities are illegal in India. This applies to all casino games, whether online or land-based. However, due to numerous ambiguities, the entire legal situation is still unclear.

This led to Sikkim enacting the Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Act, 2008 which legalizes offering and playing online games via intranet within the State. The same is regulated by the Finance, Revenue and Expenditure Department of Sikkim.

Offline Regulator: Respective State Governments

Explanation for offline

Land-based casinos are legal in only two Indian States and one Union Territory – Goa, Sikkim, and Daman & Diu. Casinos in Goa are established mostly on the River Mandovi on anchored cruises, thus making them ‘offshore’ and beyond the legal threshold of gambling in India.

However, some casinos in the State are also hosted in upmarket hotels mostly located in Panjim. Goan casinos are not open to the locals. Similarly, there are land-based casinos in Daman and Sikkim that are government-approved. All casinos in Goa and Daman are regulated under the Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act, 1976.

All games of electronic amusement, slot machines, and table games are regulated by the Home Department in Goa and the Director of Tourism in Daman. Land-based casino games are regulated by the Tourism Department in Sikkim under the Sikkim Casinos (Control and Tax) Act, 2002.


Poker

Online Regulator: Respective State Governments

Explanation for online

Under the Public Gambling Act 1867, games of skills are legal. Certain variations of Poker such as Texas Hold’em and Omaha that have been classified as games of skills only by some Indian States are considered legal only in those States. On the other hand, these versions come without a regulator in most States of India.

An exception is Nagaland, which is the first ever Indian State to issue a Poker license. Nagaland regulates skill-based versions of poker under the Nagaland Prohibition of Gambling and Promotion of Regulation of Online Games of Skill Act 2006. The Finance Commissioner of Nagaland is responsible for the licensing and regulation of the same.

West Bengal is another state that has recognized Poker as a game of skill under the West Bengal Gambling and Prize Competitions Act 1957. Similarly, under the Karnataka Police Act 1963, the State of Karnataka has dismissed the need for a license for Poker games. The same is, however, prohibited in Gujarat under the Gujarat Prevention of Gambling Act 1887.

Offline Regulator: Respective State Governments

Explanation for offline

The rules for online Poker also hold good for offline Poker in India.


Bingo

Online Regulator: Respective State Governments / Central Government

Explanation for online

Explanation: Bingo comes in different formats. It can easily fit into the general definition of gambling in India or even lottery. The former makes it a game of chance, thus outlawed. However, the latter is legal. Let me refer to the section in this article that discusses lottery.

Offline Regulator: Respective State Governments / Central Government

Explanation for offline

Explanation: The rules for online Bingo also hold good for offline Bingo in India.


Betting

Skill Games and Betting

Online Regulator: Respective State Governments

Explanation for online

Explanation: Online betting on games of chance is prohibited in most Indian States. Exceptions are casino games and games of skills as discussed above and sports betting and fantasy league betting as discussed below.

Offline Regulator: Respective State Governments

Explanation for offline

Explanation: The rules for online betting also hold good for offline betting in India.


Horse Races and Sports

Online Regulator: Respective State Governments

Explanation for online

Explanation: Betting on horse races is legal in 11 Indian States including Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Delhi, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. However, no regulator for online horse race betting is available yet. On the other hand, although sports like cricket can be classified as a game of skill, the status of sports betting is still ambiguous.

The only exception to this is Sikkim which has legalized sports betting via intranet within the State under the Sikkim Casinos (Control and Tax) Act, 2002. The activities are regulated by the Sikkim Finance, Revenue, and Expenditure Department.

Offline Regulator: Respective State Governments

Explanation for offline

Explanation: Licensed Indian Turf Clubs located in States where horse betting is legal are responsible for regulating betting on real horses within their premises. The rules for online sports betting also hold good for offline sports betting in India.


Fantasy Sports

Online Regulator: Respective State Governments

Explanation for online

Explanation: Most fantasy sports that are games of skills (such as games with the Dream11 format) have been exempted from gambling prohibitions in India. Nagaland has solid rules regarding fantasy sports betting. The State permits licenses for online virtual team selection games and online virtual fantasy league games. The same is regulated by the Finance Commissioner of the State.

Offline Regulator: Respective State Governments

Explanation for offline

Explanation: The rules for online fantasy sports betting also hold good for offline fantasy sports betting in India. Exceptions are those rules that correspond to Nagaland’s fantasy sports betting rules.


Lottery

Online Regulator: Respective State Governments / Central Government

Explanation for online

Explanation: Under the Lotteries (Regulation) Act 1998, the Central Government has permitted all State Governments to run lottery draws under certain conditions and formulate their laws. Accordingly, State Governments can organize, conduct, advertise and regulate lottery draws within their respective State boundaries only if:

  • The prizes are not offered on pre-announced numbers or based on single digits.
  • The logo of the State is printed on the ticket for authenticity.
  • The tickets are sold directly by the State Government or via licensed distributors and agents.
  • The income is credited to the State’s public account.
  • The organizing is done by the State itself.
  • Unclaimed winnings can become the State Government’s property.
  • The place of the draw will be within the State itself.
  • More than one draw in a week is conducted.
  • The date of draw is scheduled by the State Government.
  • Not more than 6 Bumper Draws are organized in one calendar year.
  • Other terms and conditions prescribed by the Central Government are met.

Currently, only 13 Indian States have legalized lottery, including Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Goa, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Punjab, Sikkim, West Bengal. Of those, only Punjab provides online lottery in particular. States like Sikkim and Goa run physical draws as well as online lotteries.

Online gambling including lottery has been banned in Maharashtra under the Bombay Wager Act. Recently, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana and Tamil Nadu also jumped onto the bandwagon of banning such activities, especially wagering or betting in cyberspace with the help of computers, communication devices or instruments of gaming.

In each State where lottery is legal, a dedicated authority regulates all the relevant activities. See the below list:

  • Arunachal Pradesh – Arunachal Pradesh Civil Secretariat, conducted Department of State Lottery
  • Assam – Bodoland Territorial Council (Assam)
  • Goa – Directorate of State Lotteries, Goa
  • Kerala – Lottery Department, Government of Kerala
  • Madhya Pradesh – Department of Finance, Government of Madhya Pradesh
  • Maharashtra – Department of Finance, Government of Maharashtra
  • Manipur – Directorate of Lotteries, Government of Manipur
  • Meghalaya – Meghalaya State Lottery Department
  • Mizoram – The Financial Commissioner, Government of Mizoram
  • Nagaland – The Directorate of Nagaland State Lotteries
  • Punjab – Lottery department, Government of Punjab
  • Sikkim – Directorate of Sikkim State Lotteries
  • West Bengal – West Bengal State Lottery Directorate

Offline Regulator: Respective State Governments / Central Government

Explanation for offline

Explanation: The rules for online lottery also hold good for offline lottery in India.

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Social Games Without Real Money Prizes

Online Regulator: Central Government

Explanation for online

Explanation: Games without real money prizes do not fall under gambling activities. However, depending on the type, format, and content of these games, certain laws may be enacted by the Central Government of India. These games come without a regulator.

Offline Regulator: Central Government

Explanation for offline

Explanation: The rules for online social games without real money prize also hold good for their offline counterparts. An example is the game of Jallikattu in Kerala, which was banned and then again allowed in the recent past.


Games of Skill with no Element of Chance

Online Regulator: Respective State Governments

Explanation for online

Explanation: Games of skill such as rummy, which come without an element of chance can be offered in digital formats without the operator needing any permission. Such games are currently unregulated in most Indian States, except for Nagaland where a licensing regime has been enacted for the regulation of digital games of skill without an element of chance.

Offline Regulator: Respective State Governments

Explanation for offline

Explanation: The rules for online games of skill without chance elements also apply to their offline counterparts. However, the offline versions are not yet regulated.


Are International Online Casinos Regulated in India?

The answer is no and the reason is Indian Central Government’s lack of power over foreign gaming authorities.

Whether you’re playing a game of skill with or without an element of chance – whether it is cricket betting or international lottery, slots, table games, rummy, bingo, keno, or poker – if it’s a licensed online casino located abroad and accepting players from India, it is away from the Indian jurisdiction.

To Conclude…

If you have read my previous article on the legality of online gambling in India, you’d know that international casinos cannot be regulated by the Indian Government. Of course, they are regulated by the gaming authorities that issue licenses to them. This ensures you are playing at online platforms that practice responsible gambling and fair play.

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