Gambling: Grey Area to Be Filled

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About the author:

Saumya Singh is a law student in University Institution of Legal Studies, Panjab University


 “Game of Dice in Mahabharata” to the “Game of dice on-screen”, the existence of gambling in India exists since antediluvian times. Technological evolution drew the concept of online gambling which used to reside in physical form. While deliberating on the regulation of gambling, the judiciary is still adjudicating the legality in India which can be inferred from recent events where gaming and online payment platforms like Ludo, Paytm, Zomato were investigated for money laundering. Hence, a conflict like this places online gambling in a grey zone, which needs the constant intervention of the Judiciary.

Regulatory Framework

Public Gambling Act1865, the gambling legislation of Colonial-era is still in operation and is unaltered. This act illegalizes every form of gambling and betting with an exception of horse riding and only talked about penalizing physical gambling, by putting a question mark on online betting regulation. Any person who violates the legislation will be fined Rs. 200or imprisonment upto 3months or both. The 1865Act is a central enactment, besides this Act has conferred power to the states under List2 in the 7th Schedule of the Constitution to enact separate legislation to regulate gambling within their jurisdictions.

Among 28 states only 3states Goa, Sikkim, and Nagaland have enacted their separate legislations. Sikkim and Nagaland have explicitly regulated virtual gambling through legislation. Though, the difference in opinion and lack of uniformity has placed virtual gambling in a pool of confusion. Nevertheless,the judiciary has interminably worked for widening the “ambit of gambling”in India.

Widened Ambit of Legalised Gambling

Gambling means “playing games of chance for money”. Its definition has been broadened by the constant judicial intercession and has laid down the following capes over legalized gambling–

  • Betting on horse– Under the case of Dr. R.K. Lakshmanan v. State of Tamil Nadu  it was said that “Section12 of Gambling Act, 1865 included “game of chance” in a preview of law.” The court expressed that game with the predominant factor to be luck and chance will be considered illegal, they also held that “Horse Racing” is a game of skill andhence it’s not gambling.
  • Games of skill- From State of Bombay v. RMD Chamarbaugwala to Dr. R.K. Lakshmanan v. State of Tamil Nadu the ambit of “game of skill” have seen a constant magnification. In the RMD Chamarbaugwala case, the apex court held that “game of skill” means “games in which success depends principally upon the knowledge, training, experience of the player” and games where there was a certain level of skill is involved, it wouldn’t be considered gambling, For example, Dream11, Classic Rummy, etc.
  • Lotteries- Lottery is defined as a type of gambling in which people buy numbered tickets and random numbers are chosen from hundreds of tickets, people who have those numbers in their tickets win the prize money and have to pay tax from the amount won, it was held under the case of MangalMurti Marketing v State of Bombay As of 2021,13 states have legalized lotteries be it online or offline.

Online gambling a grey area

Today in the world of technology where people are connected through the internet, India has slackened behind to regulate online gambling and that’s quite evident with the growing cases in the recent past-

  • Ludo case- Bombay H.C issued a plea to Maharashtra Government seeking declaration whether “Ludo is a game of chance or skill”. Petitioner filed the case under the Prevention of Gambling Act against the company operate an online Ludo game. According to his claim players have the opportunity to win real money and winning of 3 years old is no less than any other player as dice value is controlled by the algorithm developed by programmers. The case is been adjourned to the next date for the decision.
  • Paytm case- Paytm was removed from Google Play Store, over the allegation of leading the customers to an external website that allows them to participate in paid games to win real money as it was violative of rules assigned by Google against online gambling.


The Law Commission of India in its 276threport has recommended the legalization of gambling activities. Let’s take an example of a regulated market for sports bets; it would help in curbing the match-fixing iniquity. An estimate by the International Centre for Sports Security remarked that the illegal betting market in India stands at Rs.9.9lakh crore/annum. Hence, if the gambling market got regulated it will add revenue to the Indian treasure. The Commission also suggested fixing a cap on the number of transactions made by an individual by creating a distinction between high and low-income groups.

Though there is no reference of online gambling in the Act of 1867 making Information Technology Act, 2000 the priority legislation to deliberate upon online gambling. IT Act covers the provisions dealing with the criminalization of illicit online gambling activity; hence we need a clear definition of online gambling to permit online gambling within the orbit of the IT Act. While articulating the power of the central government for settling the dispute of gambling legislation, Parliament has power under Article249and 252 of the Constitution to enact a model law for regulating gambling that can be adopted by states to their free will.

But, before concluding the issue of gambling legalization, India should remember the words by George Washington “Gambling is a child of avarice, the brother of iniquity and the father of mischief”.

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