Gambling laws in India are strange and gambling remains outlawed and heavily restricted, although illegal gambling is rampant throughout the country. The only type of gambling which is allowed everywhere is national lottery. As of now, the only legal betting activities in India are horse racing, trackside at meetings, and gambling at casinos in just two states, Goa and Sikkim. Other forms of gambling are restricted to Goa. In Goa players will find five large casinos, though these casinos only have machine games. Table games can only be found on casino cruise ships around Goa. Still, the Indian gambling market is estimated to be worth US$60 billion per year, of which about half is bet illegally.
The size of the market is why, in the year 2009, Britain’s biggest betting companies decided to bid for the first online gambling licence in India. The high-street bookie William Hill, along with internet players Betfair and Bwin bid for the internet licence in the Himalayan state of Sikkim in early September 2009.
The Goa Public Gambling Act of 1976 was established to prevent all gambling, but it has been amended twice over the years because of pressure from the gambling industry. In 1992, slots were allowed in 5-star hotels. Then in 1996, the law was amended a second time to allow table games to be played on licensed casino cruise vessels. As of early 2009, however, the legislation regarding casino cruise ships is being reviewed.
News and murmurs of betting and match fixing in cricket and some other sports have constantly hit international headlines. Gambling is banned in India, but that has not stopped people from betting.
Should we legalize it? The normal effect of a ban is that such activities go underground bringing criminal elements, drug mafia and even terrorist together. Legalizing it might minimise the underworld’s role and the government would be able to raise revenues through taxation. It is time we should seriously think whether we can control gambling by keeping it legal or illegal.