Gambling in recent years has become a huge market in India. Some may say that
gambling is morally wrong while others may classify it as a criminal activity.
For once we can't tend to exactly pen down our points as to why is it we feel so
about gambling. But how is this contentious game hugely prevalent in India and
has existed since the British Rule.
The Public Gambling Act, 1867 is a central
law which clearly declared all gambling betting acts illegal, still in the
present times it has a far-reaching black market with millions of cash involved
which cannot be controlled by the government. Why is it so? Is gambling so
addictive that people just can't keep away from it? Could gambling be legalized
to the country's economic benefit? Is gambling really immoral? In this paper
we will delve deep into addressing some unanswered questions and thoughts in our
Earlier Gambling was widely accepted as a legitimate form of a recreation but
now people have turned it into a mode of earning money. While gambling is seen
as an innate human nature, it still is a subjective topic and the general social
sentiment towards it has been ever swinging with time. Despite the existing
prohibitory laws, there is extensive underground gambling taking place
throughout India and is generally are heard of by everyone including the
government. Its market has a huge potential in our country and currently the
Indian Gambling Market is estimated to be worth $60 billion USD per year.
Gambling includes Casino Gambling, Online Gambling, Skill Games and Sports
Followed since the British rule, the archaic Indian law for gambling is still
prevailing and is unchanged. The Public Gambling Act, 1867 is a law laid by the
Centre which clearly stated that all gambling betting acts are illegal except
the games where skill is needed. Suffice it to say that the Indian laws have not
kept pace with the modern times, the Public Gambling Act of 1867 remains to this
day the only law that regulates gambling across India. Although this act was
passed by the Centre which makes it applicable across whole of India, betting
and gambling comes under the state list.
The Seventh Schedule Entry 34 List II
of the Indian constitution gives all the states the power to decide the laws
regarding gambling. The state governments within their authority have the option
to either adopt the Central Act or to device any amendments which may seem the
best fit for their region. Hence many state authorities have done just
that. Government-run lotteries are sanctioned in 13 states and in 5 Union
territories while horse racing is legal in 6 states, and casinos are legal in
just 2 states (Goa and Sikkim). In 2010, Sikkim became the only state to
legalize Online Sports Betting.
Understanding the concept
Gambling is participating in an activity involving wagering something
materialistic or of monetary value to win something similar, money or a prize.
Thus gambling by and large has three elements 'Consideration', 'Risk' and 'Prize'. The Public Gambling Act, 1867, prohibits running or being in charge of
a public gambling house and provides that games of mere skill are exempt from
the application of the Act. Additionally, this Act prohibits visiting gambling
houses. Gambling is not considered an offence until and unless it takes place in
a public place or a common gaming house. Simply the occasional convening of
mates and acquaintances to play cards and perhaps for money does not make it a
common gaming house.
The three landmark cases which set the legal precedents and defined gambling in
Is Gambling Immoral?
- RMD Chamarbaugwala vs. Union of India case, 1957
The upshot of the case hearing was that the Supreme Court clearly drew a line
between games of skill and games of chance and held that games involving certain
skill level wouldn't be considered gambling. The Court also gave the definition
of skill games as, "The competitions where success depends on a substantial
degree of skill are not 'gambling' and despite there being an element of chance
if a game is preponderantly a game of skill it would nevertheless be a game of
mere skill"; Thus, the games of skills were exempted from the ambit of gambling
and are not prohibited.
- Dr K.R. Lakshmanan vs. State of Tamil Nadu, 1996
The reason betting on horse racing is not prohibited while other types of
gambling are illegal was answered in this case, where the Supreme Court
recognised that Horse Racing was a game based on skill and did not come under
the purview of gambling. The three-judge bench further held that the winning of
a horse does not completely depend upon chance, but is determined by several
other factors such as �adequate training received by the horse as well as his
rider (a jockey), pedigree given to the horse, nature of the race, the health of
the horse etc. Therefore, removing the question of illegitimacy from it and
clarifying the legal position of Horse Racing.
- State of Andhra Pradesh vs. K. Satyanarayana, 1967
The verdict of this case involved the Supreme Court distinguishing rummy from
the other 'three card' games and recognising rummy as a game of skill rather
than being a game based on pure chance irrespective of the format, venue and
stakes involved. Some state enactments on betting and gambling exists where it
rules over the Public Gambling Act of 1867. In such manner, the Assam Game and
Betting Act, 1970 and Orissa (Prevention of) Gambling Act, 1955 and Telangana
State Gaming (Amendment) Ordinance and High Court Judgment in Gujarat, 2017
denies games with cash stakes and furthermore doesn't make an exception for
rounds of ability and karma. In this way, at present, inhabitants of Assam,
Gujarat, Nagaland, Odisha, Sikkim, and Telangana are not permitted to play.
Gambling as a game was initially started being played by the masses as it
enticed them with the elements of randomness and chance and had the perfect
ingredients to be regarded as a form of entertainment. But unsurprisingly enough
the game involved the behemoth of a foe known to man- greed. (the element of
greed). Naysayers see gambling as a bridge to the path of crime while proponents
argue that gambling 'here and there
' for entertainment is not immoral, but
gambling as a habit is where it gets fractious regardless of the amount of
money. Gambling as a habit is as vice as it gets, and is detrimental.
gamble on occasional levels can also get caught up in it. The paramount reason
for it to be frowned upon is the element of addiction. Gambling addiction is
very much serious and real. There are people with everything to lose get so
hooked onto it that they keep going on until they drain their pockets leaving
themselves and their families on the path. The dire effects of it on the mind
are profound and can lead someone to a state of depression, desolation and
Looking at it from a philosophical point of view the principle of
pining to get something for free without human toil is never considered
virtuous. It is also seen as making a quick buck without giving something back
to the society. Gambling also affects the moral conscience of a person as he/she
is likely to do anything to win or to see somebody else lose.
Arguments for Legalization
In a country like India where the gambling market has become such a widespread
industry, people's inherent love for gambling is seamlessly evident. The
involvement of such a large number of population in this growing industry and
the prevalent flouting of this law makes it onerous for the government to limit
the involvement in this industry. In 2016, The Supreme Court of India mandated
the Law Commission of India (LCI) to deduce the best way to deal with illegal
gambling. The LCI, in its report, said � �since it is not possible to prevent
these activities completely, eﬀectively regulating them remains the only viable
option.� Thus, the LCI has suggested to legalize Sports Betting with strict
One argument relates to the amount of money involved in gambling. Looking at the
annual spending which amounts to billions of US dollars, if this is taxed
efficaciously it could make sizeable economic benefits to the government in
terms of revenue generation.
For example, the legal online gaming industry in India (legal games such as
online poker, online rummy, and fantasy sports) has grown significantly with
increased digitalization and high internet penetration. A 2017 study suggested
that the Indian online gaming industry will be worth USD one billion dollars by
2021. If all areas of gambling were to be legalized like this, it could generate
substantial amounts of funds for the central and the state governments.
A second argument suggests that if gambling were to be legalized, it would curb
the use of illegal black money, which is being used or laundered to fund
According to the Law Commission Report No.276, a complete ban on sports betting
wouldn't help as it would push the betting towards the black market. The report
also stated that the profits earned through such activities escape the purview
of taxation which increases the use of black money in the market.
A third argument suggests that legalizing gambling would create potential
job/employment opportunities and would attract tourism. As seen in the legally
operating casinos in Goa which have brought about immense tourist attention and
therefore contributed in financial gains and employment creation.
Another argument in favour of legalizing/regulating gambling cited that the
percent of population which is adversely affected by gambling is less than 1 %.
For the rest it remains a fun leisure activity with a potential chance to earn
money. Why deny the majority a pleasurable pastime just to be wary of some
Arguments against Legalization
Whenever we think of the negative effects of gambling, things like financial
worries, addiction and other serious issues spring to mind. The putative
argument which is the first to be put forward is the boundless financial losses
which leads to large debts and even bankruptcy. The person involved not only
puts himself in a defenceless state but his whole family. This leads to
depression and which leads to potential problematic and addictive behaviours.
This culminates in increased substance use. The public health argument is that
there is a potent relationship between substance consumption and subsequent
The more the people indulge into gambling, the greater is the
possibility for them to develop problems. Thus, if gambling were to be
legalized, inevitably more people would indulge into gambling and more is the
likely-hood for them to spend their time and energy into it and develop
addictive problems subsequently becoming problem gamblers. These developing
problems will follow greater gambling-related harms to the individuals, their
families and to the society.
Researches from across the world has shown that gambling and its related
problems undesirably affects the most vulnerable in the society such as the
ethnic minorities, the socially and economically disadvantaged, the elderly and
the young minds. Studies also show that the ratio of problem gamblers to the
population engaged in it is considerably higher than the high-income countries.
Hence if legalized the rates of problem-gambling would significantly increase.
Another argument proposes that a person who bore a financial loss is likely to
indulge into criminal activities. Addictive gamblers are in need of money
constantly and indulge into criminal activities like fraud and embezzlement to
meet their gambling demands. Hence the money gained through these activities
only expedites the involvement in gambling. This cycle continues till the
opportunity of committing the crime remains and the person doesn't get caught.
Gambling → Financial Loss → Depression → Crime
Another argument says that there is a negative impact in the minds of the
players who enjoy success even if it is of the smallest margins. The fun of
winning naturally gives rise to the greed for more. Hence it will urge the
person to put in more money the next time. Eventually this turns into addiction
from which it is very difficult to escape.
The Legal Route forward
From the above read it is evident that the laws in India for gambling are
outdated and a new framework to revamp the status quo is called for. The sheer
volume of people practicing this illegal activity underground and sticking to
their own guns has caused the government to heed to the predicament. To allay
this illegal activity seems like an unfeasible task.
Here are some steps the government may take to address the situation:
- The government should set the upper limit on the number of stakes/bets
across all Common Gaming Houses and venues including online platforms and
the government should restrict the number of transactions which can be done
in a specific period of time.
- Proper issuing of licenses should be done with authentic identification
of the players which would deny those who are under-aged, those with proven
substance-abuse problems and mental illness, those with a history of
criminal records, those with lower income levels.
- Statutory regulatory bodies should be set up to monitor and protect the
interest of the players also functioning as a grievance redressal machinery.
Though the arguments are pretty balanced for both the sides, the government
should behold the pros and cons before considering such a huge policy change.
Even though there are a lot of steps proposed showing the path to effective
legalisation however there are many concerns which still remain unanswered. On
the face of it many theories seem apt but there is no guarantee or unequivocal
evidence that this is the way through. In the end there is no one argument which
edges out the decision in its favour so as more research work is required to
deduce a conclusion.
- The Public Gambling Act,1867
- 1957 AIR 628, 1957 SCR 930
- 1996 AIR 1153, 1996 SCC (2) 226
- 1968 AIR 825, 1968 SCR (2) 387
- Sanju George, Jessy Fenn, Kripa Robonderdeep. "An Overview of Gambling
in India" Global Journal of Medical, Pharmaceutical, and Biomedical Update,
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