Is it time for online gambling activities in India to be regulated? A recent online gambling den raid in Goa, which resulted in the arrest of 11 individuals at Gandhi market in Margao, has prompted renewed calls for the regulation of the activities in the country.
Online gaming surges amid global pandemic
Local authorities who led the raid in South Goa were quoted by media outlets saying they noticed Margao resident Rajesh Babal Naik operating “the online gambling game of chance/roulette” in Lotliker building. He, along with his employer Rajesh Naik of Ambaji, Fatorda, were arrested alongside nine players who were also allegedly involved in the online game, police said. They were arrested under Sections 269 and 188 of the IPC and Sections 3 and 4 of the Public Gambling Act.
A Times of India report, quoting anonymous sources, noted that “illegal online gambling units have surfaced at many places in Margao.” The media outlet cited the ongoing lockdown brought by the coronavirus pandemic as one of the reasons why “many matka bookies had shifted to the online mode.”
Yes, there’s no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has left many people—not just in India—stuck at home amid the series of lockdowns taking place all over the world. It is this isolation, coupled with high-speed internet connection enjoyed by many nations globally, has made it easy for anyone to turn to technology to pass time—be it spending time with family and friends or even searching for casual entertainment such as playing online games.
In the United Kingdom, the University of Bristol’s latest study found that “gambling online saw the biggest increase during lockdown, irrespective of gambling frequency.”
That’s not surprising, especially for a country like India, where internet penetration is high thanks to the mainstream availability of low-cost mobile phones and affordable data plans. In fact, the Indian market—which is largely mobile first, according to an ENV Media research—is expected to “become a USD1 billion opportunity by 2021.”
Gambling’s current legal position in India—still murky
This brings us to one question: when is the right time to regulate India’s gambling industry?
Put simply, the legal status of gambling in the country needs a major revamp—one that will make the regulation more uniform across the Indian states. Here is how gambling regulation stands, depending on the state: online gambling and land-based casinos can operate in the states of Goa, Sikkim, Nagaland, and Daman under the Public Gambling Act, 1976. Sikkim and Nagaland have also legalized e-gaming. Lottery is also legal in the states of Sikkim and Nagaland, as well as in Goa, Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya, Punjab, and West Bengal.
Maharashtra, however, has outlawed gambling under the Bombay Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887; while Telangana and Arunachal Pradesh consider skill-based games as illegal following the Telangana State Gaming Act, 1974.
To simplify this complex situation, regulation is needed—especially as the popularity of online gambling on sites like PureWin continues to grow. As a SevenJackpots research article explained, “A regulated market is better than an illegally functioning one. Examples of effective gambling regulation are found easily: licensing, taxation, and monitoring come first. Corruption and lobbying need to be rooted out with precise legal definitions, altogether raising consumer protection standards.”
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