Sports betting, particularly on cricket, is widespread in India, even though it is illegal. The Public Gaming Act of 1867 is a federal law that oversees state law and prohibits gambling on games of chance, which includes cricket and other sports. But since the Supreme Court of India has acknowledged that horse racing and rummy are skill-based activities, some Indian states have started allowing gambling on these activities, in defiance of federal law.
Similar to the path that individual states in the U.S. have taken, despite federal opposition, Indian states have varied gambling laws as well. The state of Goa currently has ten casinos. Seven of those casinos are located on boats, circumventing land based casino laws. The state of Andhra Pradesh allows gambling on rummy and horse racing and has a state-run lottery. Karnataka allows gambling on rummy and horse racing. Maharashtra also has a state-run lottery and allows horse racing. West Bengal legislators have declared poker to be a game of skill. The state of Sikkim is applying for the right to offer online gambling. The non-profit All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) is working in the state of Kerala to amend the Kerala Gaming Act of 1960 for the purpose of legalizing bridge, poker and fantasy sports.
In an effort to move the subject of legalizing sports gambling and online gambling forward, the AIGF is now appealing to Prime Minister Narendea Modi. The Gaming Federation said in a letter to Prime Minister Modi that the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry had forecast that a 20 percent tax on sports betting and gaming activities would produce annual earnings of $2.86 billion. This would be the third highest revenue maker behind print, at $8.15 billion and television, at $4.26 billion. Quoting from the letter, the Gaming Federation also stated that, “It is important to note that various industry bodies and jurists like Justice Lodha have recommended legalizing sports betting as an important measure to improve sporting facilities and eliminate fraud/betting in sports.” Included in the letter was a suggestion to form a sports lottery under the Lotteries Regulation Act of 1998. Money from the lottery would benefit sports infrastructure.
Progress toward sports betting legalization can be made, now that the subject is out in the open. Even so, many Indians remain skeptical. Laws will have to be enacted on the federal and state level and the process promises to be a political football. But, for what it’s worth, in July, the Supreme Court ordered the Indian legislature at the central level to consider legalizing sports betting within the country.