Whatever the legal standing of online live dealer gambling in India is or will become, the fact remains that many residents who enjoy gambling are passionate about it. Most will bet on cricket and other favorite sports and many will declare that skill, not chance is the predominant controlling factor in the outcomes. That distinction matters under The Public Gambling Act, even if it was drafted and codified in a time long gone by.
In early 2023, we finally saw federal declarations defining an internet game or online game as “a game that is offered on the internet and is accessible by a computer resource or an intermediary”. [Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY)]. We also saw the same ministry state that: “...[an] online real money game [that] does not involve wagering on any outcome,” may be approved under new definitions.
Special bodies called SROs (self-regulating organizations) were also authorized to make the determination. As hard as an edict was to come by, consensus has proven to be even more elusive.
India is not alone…
For those outside of India, it may be good to remember that many other developed nations struggle with a similar conundrum – no federal clarity or unified regulation under gambling law.
In Canada, like India, the states (provinces) and territories have been given autonomy over the matter. Most constituent parts have their own Crown Corporations (private/government partnerships) while only the province of Ontario has created a regulatory framework that allows “free market” competition among gambling providers.
If blackjack requires a strategy to win, is that a skill game like sports prognostication in the eyes of some punters and experts? Like rummy? Like poker?
In Australia, online casino gambling is perfectly “legal” at the federal level and each state is allowed to issue its own licenses and enforce regulation as it sees fit – much like a Governor and Council of Ministers may theoretically do in India.
Unfortunately for Aussie players, none have done so. And while citizens are free to gamble offshore wherever and however they choose, providers, operators, and even advertisers can be sanctioned heavily with civil and criminal penalties if they target Australian citizens.
Americans have an entirely different kettle of fish to deal with. While interstate sportsbetting remains illegal under a 1961 law, the courts have determined that the “Wire Act” only applies to sports, not casino gaming, lotteries, or the like.
But alas, the bureaucracy is stuck with nearly two-decades-old “guidance” generated by the federal justice system, trade commission, and financial services authorities based on the erroneous opinions of past administrations that stated offshore gambling and even interstate gambling online was explicitly illegal. This is still the case even though a Federal Appellate Court has issued a Declaratory Judgement (final opinion and order) that the law only applies to sports betting.
In this respect, India is not alone as she has good company in some of the most enthusiastic gambling countries in the world. Punters simply figure out ways to play, usually with the help of operators who are ‘beyond the law’ rather than above it and the government misses out on capturing revenues from the flight of capital to offshore gambling sites.