India has long had issues with people who gamble. While publicly saying that gaming was a criminal activity, the Indian government has been facing a deluge of illegal gaming in the country without reaping the benefits. After a two-year delay, however, the Law Commission of India (LCI), which has been looking at the issues of gambling within the country, has recommended that gaming be legalized.
India’s gaming laws date back to 1867 when the country was still a territory of the United Kingdom. As the law stands now, it is a mismatch of state laws and national law. The law of 1867 prohibited all forms of gambling. However, laws in India have been amended several times over the years to allow certain forms of gambling. For example, lotteries are allowed and are controlled by the government. Prize competitions are also allowed under the law. Horse racing has been allowed in some states. Larger cities, especially Goa and Bombay, which have a lot of traffic from tourists, have also legalized casino gaming.
However, the online gaming industry, which has not been regulated specifically, has run rampant in the country. It has been estimated that hundreds of millions of dollars are spent in India each year on illegal gaming.
The Commission’s Report
The commission made several observations in its report to the Indian Parliament. First, the commission noted that by legalizing all forms of gaming across the nation, it would both add to the country’s revenue and bring the games out of the shadows, which might reduce problem gaming behavior.
The commission also noted that India has fought illegal gaming in the country for years, spending unnecessary money on trying to police illegal gambling businesses both on-site and online when that money could have been spent on other resources. The commission stated that if the industry were regulated, much of the criminal element could be taken out.
In addition, the commission stated most of the new gaming laws that could be put in place could be done without needing to amend the constitution. Indian law already allows exceptions to skill-centric gaming, such as horse racing, so the commission stated that other skill-centric games, such as sports betting, could also be given an exception.
States would have the option to opt out of gaming laws because those that are predominantly Muslim or have majority Muslim populations have raised objections about gambling being legalized in their state. Islam sees gambling as a sin.
The LCI recommended the government impose restrictions on gaming to try and limit problem gaming activity, especially with regard to cheating and money laundering and ensure all transactions are electronic so they can be monitored as well. In addition, if the transactions are electronic, it will be easier to tax the winnings of the players. The commission reported that the government should institute limits on gambling deposits, as well as the number of wins and losses per player. The recommendations also noted that limits might also include a number of opportunities to gamble during a specific period, as well as limits based on financial circumstances.
The commission recommended that gaming licenses be granted to Indian operators only, but the government could also encourage foreign investment for gaming enterprises in the country. This would allow India to cooperate and form partnerships with businesses from other countries that have experience in the gaming industry.
Finally, with regard to online gaming, the commission stated that licenses should be granted to each website on an individual basis, and each business would need to prominently display information on safe gaming practices on its site.
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