Online casinos in India: A grey area, but huge potential

  • India’s gaming industry worth $60 billion per annum and set to grow
  • Only Goa, Sikkim and Daman states operate casinos at this time

Players of online casinos and poker in India are caught in a grey area of legal uncertainty, amid a market that now sits at $60 billion and growing according to a new figures.

Online casino grey area India
A new report has shown the size of the Indian online casino and poker market. But the legal grey area still lingers for the nation’s players.

India has long been one of those countries which has ambiguous and even contradictory laws regarding online casinos and poker. A recent report by audit giant KPMG has discovered that this is still the case, despite a general rise in users. Operators and players alike remain locked in a grey legal area, though the gaming industry is estimated at $60 billion per year and rising.

A number of Indian casino sites, such as Khelo365 and Adda52, are performing well and offering the usual casino and poker services seen in other territories. Nevertheless, the legality of these operations is tenuous due to policies varying from region to region.

National versus local legislation

The confusion in India arises from a clash between nationwide laws and the laws of individual states. Gambling is officially prohibited in a number of states, with only a few such as Goa, Sikkim and Daman legalizing the activity, thanks to a degree of autonomy.

This clashes with central law; the Public Gaming Act of 1867 prohibits gambling and many states simply follow this course, however the act also excludes ‘games of skill’ from the definition of gambling. The act does not go on to define ‘games of skill’, though in 1968 the Supreme Court ruled in State of Andhra Pradesh versus K. Satyanarayana that Rummy was skill-based. Poker can also be defined as skill-based, though no official ruling yet supports this idea.

The online blurring of boundaries

Naturally, these distinctions between states become yet more blurred with the rise of online gambling, which has no geographical border, so a citizen in Delhi can play on a site based in Goa, whether or not they should. Mobile apps have contributed to this too, supported by a thriving millennial population which is tech-savvy and has disposable income.

The future seems to depend on a ruling from central Indian law. Some analysts suggest that the government is missing out on $2.6 billion per annum in tax revenue, while many traditionalists, religious groups and NGOs resist legalization.

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