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Lessons From Romania: What India Can Learn About Gambling From the Country 

Updated on by Mattias Fröbrant

When it comes to gambling in general, both India and Romania have experienced quite the rollercoaster ride! But there's a stark difference in how the two countries have handled it.

Romania, with its savvy moves, has managed to get off the tumultuous ride and prepare itself for a promising future. Meanwhile, India seems to have misplaced its ticket and is still clinging onto the rusty tracks of the past, spinning in nostalgia and reluctant to move forward.

This article discusses everything India can learn from Romania regarding the regulation and promotion of gambling in the country. It includes the following:

  • Leaving the past behind;
  • Setting up a gambling regulator;
  • Making online gambling mainstream;
  • Easing taxes for players;
  • Working on the speed of the internet.

But first…

History and Evolution of Gambling in India vs. Romania

mahabharat dice game

Gambling in India has been practiced since time immemorial. Its long history dates back to ancient times, which adds a fascinating dimension to it.

Gambling activities have been mentioned in the Ramayana, which is believed to be from 7,300 BC. Gambling boards, possibly referring to chess, and dice gambling are described in the epic Mahabharata.

In the latter, the negative aspects of gambling have been highlighted, such as Shakuni cheating Yudhishthira in a game of dice, robbing him of his wealth and kingdom, and eventually causing a mega war.

Even in sacred Buddhist texts that date back to 300 BC, using the nuts of the Vibhitaka tree in the form of cubes to gamble, has been described vividly.

It won’t be an exaggeration to say that India's first tryst with gambling primarily included dice gaming and betting on animals in ram fights and cockfights, and eventually horse racing.

It ultimately evolved and made its way into pre-independent India in the form of Ankada Jugar – a form of single-digit lottery that would eventually be called Matka. When European influence took over, cricket became popular as a betting sport as well.

However, the British enforced the Public Gambling Act in 1867, making gambling officially illegal in India. Any breach would attract a jail term or fine or both. Even after the country gained independence in 1947, the ban on gambling remained.

Today, gambling is considered taboo in India. Also, the federal government gives states the authority to decide whether or not to legalize it.

However, still deluged with a colonial hangover, each state follows the Public Gambling Act, which is still in effect without much amendment and prohibits operating or visiting gambling establishments.

Of course, states like Goa and Sikkim, and the Union Territory of Daman allow land-based casinos, and 13 Indian states run paper-based lotteries. Certain skill-based games like rummy and poker have been declared legal, too, and horse race betting is still being conducted.

But that’s all the “progress” there has ever been!

Despite the entire world embracing the Internet, online gambling has still not materialized in India, which has opened the leeway for foreign-based operators to open their shops in the country.

After all, the Public Gambling Act is followed as is and it doesn’t say anything about penalizing players for gambling online on international sites.

While foreign-based gambling sites continue to monetize Indian traffic, no India-based gambling site has come to fruition. This is surprising because even though there’s no specific law in the Public Gambling Act that allows Indians to build casinos and betting sites, there’s no law banning it either.

Perhaps the biggest bottleneck is the lack of a gambling regulator based in India – one that can license and monitor India-based gambling businesses. It’s funny how the Brits who brought about the original law now have one of the world’s finest gambling systems under the UKGC while India continues to lose its revenue to foreign entities.

This is where the country can take lessons from Romania!

Because we are discussing history, let’s remember that Romania, too, has experienced its fair share of ups and downs when it comes to gambling. The country’s engagement with gambling stretches back several decades, although it isn’t as ancient as India’s. 

For instance, now designated as a historic monument, Romania’s Constanța Casino situated on the banks of the Black Sea was constructed way back in 1880.

It served as a gambling destination for 38 years and survived both World Wars (even as a wartime hospital). It was then used as a community center and then as a restaurant before being abandoned. 

Another one, the Vatra Dornei Casino located in Romania’s Suceava County was built in 1898 as a tourist attraction and offered poker, roulette, and craps. Eventually, it was abandoned and now stands as a historic monument.

Similarly, the Sinaia Casino was constructed at the behest of King Carol I of Romania in 1912. It is now an international conference center.

But the real fun began only in the 20th century when the country got its first national lottery – Loteria Română on September 14, 1906. This was the time when India was still under British rule and fighting for its freedom. 

But then came the reign of Nicolae Ceaușescu – the Romanian communist politician and dictator. During what would be eventually termed Ceaușescu’s ‘totalitarian’ and ‘repressive’ rule, gambling in Romania came to be forbidden. 

This ban remained in place for a good many years until his overthrow and subsequent execution in December 1989 during the Romanian Revolution. It was only after Ceaușescu’s communist rule ended that gambling was legalized again in Romania in 1990.

A year later, in 1991, the country opened the doors to its first-ever big casino in Bucharest’s central train station. There was no looking back after that.

In 2003, foreign investments were initiated in the Romanian gambling industry and sports betting in particular. However, the initiative didn’t really work in favor of the country.

Partial rectifications were made in 2010 with the Romanian government passing an act that legalized online gambling, but only from companies licensed within the country. But, due to the lack of a regulatory body, this decision, too, was met with challenges.

Eventually, in April 2013, Romania successfully established Oficiul National pentru Jocuri de Noroc (ONJN) – the National Office for Gambling. This is the current regulatory body that is responsible for formulating and enforcing gambling laws in the country.

“Loteria Română” is now “Compania Națională Loteria Română” – the monopolist on the country’s gambling market. It is responsible for organization and preventing the exploitation of casino activities and lottery games in Romania.

Despite the monopoly, the country today has one of the world’s most booming gambling markets. Presently, Romania is home to thousands of bookmakers and lottery points with more than 20 land-based casinos operating within its borders.

The Romanian Poker Championship it hosts needs no introduction. Online casino in the country are permitted, too, although it is regulated through the legislative acts – Emergency Government Ordinance No. 77/2009 and the Methodological Norms.

Do you know how all this happened? Because Romania has learnt to leave the past behind and focus on progress. Meanwhile, India has allowed each state to do whatever it deems fit and invited chaos.

What Can India Do Better To Have a Gambling Market Like Romania?

Romanian government building
Image source: 3seaseurope.com

Here’s what we think India can do with immediate effect to set up a gambling market akin to Romania’s:

Leave the Past in the Past

India must liberate itself from its colonial mindset and acknowledge that the world has moved forward. Even the makers of this ancient law no longer follow the same ideologies. They have come of age and recognized the immense potential that lies in the realm of gambling.

India has to do the same. It has to shed the burden of the old, outdated Public Gambling Act, or at the very least, give it a thorough makeover.

The country has to understand that legalized and regulated betting activities within India can help fill the exchequer while mindless bans can only serve to siphon off funds as players flock to foreign sites.

Furthermore, India must embark on an educational crusade to dispel the stigma associated with gambling. By legalizing this activity, it can then implement measures to ensure responsible gambling practices are upheld online as well as offline so minors and adults prone to gambling addiction can be protected.

Also, instead of handing out the responsibility of banning or allowing casinos and betting shops to individual states, India should contemplate running a monopoly like Romania and bringing everyone under one roof – like it did while implementing the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Establish a Gambling Regulator

This is the need of the hour! Imagine if India had a country-based gambling regulator like the UKGC or MGA. Things would have been so much simpler! 

Businesses could have confidently invested in setting up licensed online casinos and new employment opportunities would have popped up. The unregulated market that runs rampant in the country today would have had some tough competition.

We aren’t saying an Indian gambling regulator would have completely eliminated all the chances of Indians betting on offshore gambling sites. However, it would definitely have taken a significant chunk out of that pie.

Make Online Gambling Mainstream

Imagine the hassle of setting up land-based casinos in every state – it's no small feat! We're talking about a cost that would make millionaires cringe, if not billionaires.

Besides, would players in India really flock to offline casinos just for the games? We highly doubt it. There needs to be an added allure of live performances and delectable cuisine, all wrapped up in the same enticing package they sign up for.

Thankfully, all this can be eliminated in online gambling. So, India should devise a plan to establish online gambling sites and regulate them under a centralized authority, just like Romania does.

As we discussed earlier, granting a government-approved company the monopoly would be a splendid idea. It's a win-win situation – we get to enjoy the thrills of gambling without the colossal expenses and logistical nightmares.

Ease Taxes for Players

Romania once imposed a universal tax quota of 25% on gambling winnings, regardless of the amount won. However, they realized the mistake and made a change. The tax rate was reduced to 1% for players whose winnings were below RON 600.

Fast forward to the present, the current rate stands at 3% for winnings of up to RON 10,000, 20% + RON 300 for winnings between RON 10,001 and RON 66,750 inclusive, and 40% + RON 11,650 for winnings exceeding RON 66,750.

India, too, shares a similar taxation rule for gambling-related winnings. Currently, winnings exceeding INR 10,000 are subject to a 30% tax. But there's a valuable lesson India can learn from Romania regarding the nature of gambling taxes and how they are paid.

In Romania, punters can breathe a sigh of relief as the burden of paying taxes is borne by the betting agencies themselves. They take care of it by deducting the taxes at the source. Unfortunately, for Indian punters, this privilege is not yet available.

Work on the Speed of the Internet

Romania has impressed the entire world with its fast internet speed, which, we believe, has had a significant impact on the online gambling experience the country delivers. With an average download speed for broadband being over 200 Mbps and for mobile being over 50 Mbps, its internet connections are among the world’s fastest.

Meanwhile, India seems to be dragging its digital feet in comparison. The average download speed for broadband connections in the country is just a little over 60 Mbps while for mobile it is somewhere around 17 Mbps. This report was presented in the World Population Review.

Considering these facts, if India ever contemplates legalizing online gambling, it should buckle up and address this need for speed. The country's sluggish internet could put a damper on the online gambling experience, leaving players twiddling their thumbs.

We listed this as the last point because Indian punters are already playing at international online casinos using the sluggish internet in the country. Still and all, speeding it up would definitely be a game-changer.

Long Story Short

Romania has emerged as a hotspot for gambling activities majorly because of its progressive legislative system and great telecommunication facilities. It has risen from its ashes and soared like a phoenix.

In comparison, India has chosen to remain in the shell and stay away from progress. By following in the footsteps of Romania, the country can work for the betterment of its gambling market and contribute to strong economic growth and societal development.

Mattias Fröbrant is a passionate iGaming journalist renowned for his comprehensive reviews of over 300 gambling sites in India. With a remarkable 17-year gambling experience and a background working for industry giants like Betsson Group, Mattias has earned recognition as a leading expert in the Indian online gambling field.

At GamblingBaba, Mattias’s commitment to providing accurate and easily digestible information shines through meticulously researched reviews, guides, and news articles. His strong belief in honesty and transparency ensures that readers receive the most reliable insights on the Indian gambling landscape.

To get in touch with Mattias, connect via Linkedin.

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