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The law associated with online gambling in India must be understood within the country’s socio-cultural context. First, gambling, although not absolutely prohibited in India, does not receive express encouragement by policy makers. The Indian organized gambling industry is estimated to be worth around US$8 billion. While stringent laws have checked the proliferation of casinos and high street gaming centres as in many other countries, barring hawaii of Goa, the lottery business remains probably the most post popular type of gambling.
Though gambling isn’t illegal, it is a highly controlled and regulated activity. Modern India is a quasi-federal Constitutional democracy and the powers to legislate are distributed at the federal and also the state levels. Gambling features in List II of the Constitution of India, this implies that the state governments have the authority to enact laws so as to regulate gambling in the respective states. Thus, there is no single law governing gambling in the entire country. Different states have different laws governing gambling in addition to the laws that have an application across the country. While some states have banned lotteries, other states allow state lotteries marketed and distributed in other lottery playing and promoting states through private entities.
Regulation of gambling
The courts have defined gambling as ‘the payment of a cost for to be able to win a prize’. The dominant part of skill or chance shall determine the type of the game. A casino game may be deemed to be gambling if the part of chance or luck predominates in deciding its outcome. Because of this, Indian courts have held that betting on horse racing and some card games are not gambling. The right to undertake the business enterprise of gambling and lotteries isn’t considered as a simple right protected by the Constitution of India. It could however be pointed out that the state government run lotteries make significant contributions to hawaii exchequer of several state governments and the Union government, and hence there is a resistance to complete prohibition.
The following legislation is pertinent to gambling:
THE GENERAL PUBLIC Gaming Act, 1867
This Act provides punishment for public gambling and for keeping of a ‘common gaming house’. This Act also authorises the state governments to enact laws to modify public gambling in their respective jurisdictions. The penal legislations in respective states have already been amended in accordance with their policy on gambling. However, this legislation does not have any direct impact on online gambling unless a broad interpretation is given to this is of common gaming house so as to include virtual forums aswell.
The Indian Contract Act, 1872 (ICA)
The ICA is a codified umbrella legislation that governs all commercial contracts in India. Beneath the ICA, a wagering contract is the one which cannot be enforced. The Act lays down; ‘Agreements through wager are void, and no suit shall be brought for recovering anything purported to be won on any wager or entrusted to anybody to abide by the consequence of any game or other uncertain event on which any wager is made’. Gambling, lottery and prize games have held to be wagering contracts and therefore void and unenforceable. While a wagering contract is not illegal, it can’t be enforced in a court of law. Thus, the courts will not entertain any cause of action that arises out of a wagering contract.
Lotteries (Regulation) Act, 1998
This Act provides a framework for organizing lotteries in the country. Under this Act, hawaii governments have been authorized to market together with prohibit lotteries of their territorial jurisdiction. This Act also offers the manner where the lotteries should be conducted and prescribes punishment in the event of breach of its provision. Lotteries not authorized by hawaii have been made an offence under the Indian Penal Code. Several non-lottery playing states, like Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, have prohibited the sale of other state-government lotteries under this Act.
Indian Penal Code, 1860
Section 294A handles keeping lottery office. It says that whoever keeps any office or place for the intended purpose of drawing any lottery not being truly a State lottery or a lottery authorised by the State Government, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.
And whoever publishes any proposal to pay any sum, or to deliver any goods, or to do or forbear doing anything for the advantage of anybody, on any event or contingency relative or applicable to the drawing of any ticket, lot, number or figure in virtually any such lottery, shall be punished with fine which may extend to 1 thousand rupees.
The law related to gambling is also applicable to online gambling. All gambling contracts are considered to be wagering contracts and it is not possible to enforce such contracts under the ICA, detailed above.