The country of India has a contentious relationship with gambling and has been cracking down on illegal gaming. The government is tackling both online and onsite gambling throughout the country in anticipation of the upcoming festival season. In Odisha state, a recent raid aimed to crack down on illegal gaming in Bhubaneswar.
Gambling in India
Gambling in India is not governed by the national government, but instead by the state. In addition, the gambling laws across the nation of India are nearly 150 years old. The Public Gaming Act of 1867 prohibits any person from opening a “public gaming house,” even though casinos exist in the country. The law in India classifies gambling into two categories: games of skill and games of chance. For example, lotteries are games of chance, but poker is a game of skill.
Currently, only three states allow casinos; Daman, Sikkim and Goa. There are about 15 casinos in all, with the majority of them in Goa state. Some of the casinos are land based, while others are floating river casinos. Online gaming is prohibited in India under the Information Technology Act of 2000. However, many Indians still find ways to gamble online or via a mobile app. The penalty for being caught gaming online is about $1300.
The Festival Season
India, with its three major religions, has many festivals leading into the fall. One of the largest is Diwali, which is the Hindu festival of light. It is one of the most popular and celebrated festivals in all of Hinduism. The festival is a celebration of light over darkness. In preparation for this five-day festival, buildings are illuminated with festival lights. While the actual dates of Diwali vary, the festival is somewhere between mid-October and mid-November. In addition to Diwali, other faiths are celebrating festivals at or near the time. Jewish people in India celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in the fall. The Jain religion celebrates their own version of Diwali, as do Buddhists. Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor, which is one of the largest celebrations in the Sikh religion. In addition, several Muslim celebrations occur during the fall, including Ashura and Eid-e-Zahra. All of the celebration means that people are in the mood to gamble.
Police in the city of Bhubaneswar are at war with illegal gaming dens, which continue to survive and thrive in the city. So far this year, police report that they have busted 12 gaming dens in the city just this year. The police have several different methods to shut down illegal gambling dens, including sting operations, stakeouts and tips. The illegal gaming dens have been found in bus terminals, train stations, and even in empty storefronts. The police estimate that gambling dens are located close to mass transit because gamblers who lose their money are reluctant to complain about it.
The police note that the 12 dens they have raided so far this year mean that they are already eclipsing last year’s 18 raids. However, they admit that the number of gambling dens far outnumber the number closed down by the police. In addition, police also admit that while closing gambling dens is difficult, it can be done with diligent police work. Online illegal gambling websites and apps are far more difficult to close down, and gamers may be losing more money online than they are onsite in gambling dens. Police maintain however, that by closing down gambling dens, they are protecting their citizens from criminals and immorality during the fall festival season.
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