Gambling is a type of wagering agreement which takes place between two parties, where one party promises the other to pay a certain amount of consideration on happening of a future uncertain event. It will be regarded as gambling if there exits consideration, risk and a prize. Gambling can be majorly of two types:
- Chance/Probability Based: In such type of gambling, the final result is totally unexpected and random. Everyone has an equal chance of winning and losing. For example, lottery, bingo, roulette, etc. All games where the outcome is uncertain.
- Skill Based: The outcome of the even is not totally uncertain, and it can be influenced by a certain set of skills in a person. These games require skills to play, and the outcome cannot be totally certain. For example, poker, betting on races, etc.
There are different state gambling laws in India, as it has been clearly given under the Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution that the states can have different legal policies of “gambling and betting, it is the option of the state to either allow and regulate such activities, or totally prohibit them. It is totally the discretion of the state and the centre should not be involved in gambling and betting matters in the state. There is a central legislation named “The Public Gambling Act, 1867” which was enacted to prohibit all types of gambling and games in relation with chance and probability, however it regulates the skill based gambling. This Act is a 145-year-old law which has been existing from the British era, and it has provisions for the operation of a gambling house, its financing, and the crimes related to gambling. Chance/probability gambling is legal only in two states in India, they are Goa, Daman and Diu and Sikkim which have special legislation for this purpose. The state of Goa has allowed gambling by enacting the Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act, 1976, and the state of Sikkim has Sikkim Regulation of Gambling (Amendment) 2005, all the other states have a similar type of the central legislation which has been enacted. However some states have legalised lottery, with some restrictions, that lottery could be drawn only once a week, however it being drawn more than that illegally. The Central Lotteries (Regulation) Act of 1998 , has the respective rules and regulations related to lottery for state governments. Sikkim and Nagaland have enacted other legislations for the purposes of online gambling, they are The Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Act, 2008, and c The Nagaland Prohibition of Gaming and Promotion and Regulation of Online Games of Skill Act, 2016. Ironically even though there have been legislations regarding gambling, but not even one defined what gambling is. All the above legislations have provisions related to rules and regulations of gambling and betting, process to apply for a license, the restriction on obtaining a license, the payment and payment restrictions fro obtaining a license, the liability and enforcement in case of an offence, and the respective punishments and penalties.
There are other legislations like Payment and Settlement Act, 2007, Information Technology Act, 2000 which contain some provision relating to the regulation of gambling and betting. In Spite of all the above legislation there have been many on-going debates on why the “games of skill” excluded from punishment and penalty under the law. There have been doubts on why horse race betting is legal in India, but not cricket betting even though both have so many similarities. Horse race betting is considered as a game of skill but it is not the same case foe cricket betting. There has also been a debate on Rummy not being a game oc chance, and it shall come within the purview of game of skill as it is not similar to that of flush, brag, etc which are games of pure chance and probability. There have been many cases and discussions with respect to Rummy as a game of skill, and its legal status in the nation, the debate still continues to happen. Surprisingly the states of West Bengal, Nagaland, and Karnataka have legalised the game of poker, regarding it as a game of skill.
To sum it up, we have understood the legal status of gambling and betting in the nation. However, it is still regarded as highly uncertain and unclear. It is high time that the laws related to gambling have to be amended both at the central and state level. The laws have to be more clear to avoid unnecessary confusion and debates. The legislation should also become stringent so that illegal gambling can be total unseen in the nation. However, the efforts that are being put be different state government under this area of law should be appreciated. There is hope that in the future we can see a day where all gambling and betting activities are under control.