Online Casinos in India
You most certainly can’t blame Online Casinos in India for targeting the market!
India is home to more than 1.3 billion people (1,380,004,385 at the time of writing), which is equivalent to 17.7% of the total world population. (Worldometre).
The sheer numbers, plus the fact that approximately 75% of the country’s population is under 45 years-old makes Indians a rich target market for advertisers and online industries.
Such a huge population also necessitates the creation of new industries and jobs to sustain the economy, and online gambling is rapidly becoming a major contributor to the Indian economy.
This year, the Hindustan Times reported that “The Indian online gaming industry is growing at an exponential rate year upon year, and is expected to be worth $1.1 billion by 2021, according to Google-KMPG.”
Does that mean gambling is legal across India, both in land-based and online casinos?
As ever, it’s not quite that simple, with certain Indian states providing and encouraging many forms of gambling, and others prohibiting such practices.
Here’s what you need to know about gambling and online casinos in India.
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History of Gambling in India
Whereas some countries have historically viewed gambling as, variously, a vice, a form of harmless entertainment, or way to fund community and charitable organisations, Indians used gambling as a way to settle disputes for centuries.
Indians gambling, using nuts of the Vibhitaka tree as dice was described as early as 300 BC.
Early devices for gambling such as dice and playing cards have be shown to have had Indian symbols inscribed, throwing doubt onto the accepted European origins of many table games.
However, religion and gambling have never been easy bedfellows. And while the sacred text Ramayana portrays gambling in a casual way with no condemnation, India’s second most famous Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, tells tales of problem gambling, with Yudhishthira gambling himself, his brothers, and wife into servitude. (The Hans India).
In the 18th Century, the British brought cricket and horse racing over to India, creating a sports betting market that had previously been limited to arranging contests between small animals, such as cockfights, for entertainment.
Under British rule, the 1867 Gambling Act outlawed gambling in all forms across India, but the sheer size of the population made it largely impossible to enforce.
In 1947, India was finally declared independent, but the gambling laws remained more or less in place.
Gambling Laws in India
Similar to the USA, today, gambling in India is regulated at state level. This means that individual states can apply for licences and pass legislation either permitting or prohibiting specific forms of gambling within their states.
There are 29 States and 7 Union territories within India, and some are far more gambling-friendly than their neighbours.
For example, only three states in India allow land-based casinos: Goa, Daman and Sikkim. Sikkim has two – Casino Sikkim and Casino Mahjong – and Goa has six land-based casinos, and four floating casinos, which operate on the Mandovi River.
Thirteen states have legalised lotteries, many also allow horse racing, with a number of large and famous race courses being located in India, such as the Mahalaxmi Race course located in Mumbai.
Betting on cricket is not legalbut is known to be popular.
There are other loopholes which can be exploited if a game can be considered one of skill, rather than chance. This is why the Indian authorities are actually quite favourable to poker, which was ruled as such under the West Bengal Prize Competition and Gambling Act1957, although restrictions still apply.
As in Canada, Indian native reservations also have the power to control most of their gambling activities.
Broadly speaking, gambling for personal profit remains illegal in most states in India, but, as in New Zealand, overseas sites fall into a grey area, creating a legal loophole which allows Indian citizens to legally gamble online.
Online Casinos in India – Mobile Usage
With such a young population, it’s reasonable to assume the rise in mobile usage has contributed hugely to the online gambling industry in India.
In 2019, over 19 billion mobile apps were downloaded in India, compared to just over six billion in 2016. In 2019, 91 percent of Indians accessed social media via their mobile phones. (Statista)
Sports Betting in India
The most popular sport in India is cricket, with both Test cricket and the Indian Premier League providing rich sources of betting revenue for overseas bookmakers.
Indians have also started to bet on other sports such as tennis and hockey more frequently, making them a rich target market for UK, European, and other overseas bookmakers.
Fantasy Gaming & Esports in India
Games such as Dota 2, PUBG, Call of Duty, Overwatch, and League of Legends are hugely popular in India, and betting on them is a global industry.
With Indian esports stars such as Krish “MooN” Gupta winning legions of fans, and Internet coverage of esports in India improving, the appetite for betting on esports games shows no signs of abating.
According to SpielTimes, the esports industry in India is said to be worth INR 43.8 billion and this is expected to increase to INR 118.8 billion by 2023.
Pros and Cons of Domestic v Overseas Online Casinos
Although it is not strictly illegal to gamble at overseas sites in India, the Indian government are not inclined to make such practices easy.
Firstly, for an Indian to join and use online casinos and bookmakers, the sites must accept Indian Rupees as a payment method.
Secondly, Indian banks may block attempts to deposit using a Visa or MasterCard.
The way around this, is for Indian customers to use e-wallets, such as Neteller, which are offered by a number of overseas online casinos.
Winnings are also taxable in India, according to Section 115B of the Income Tax Act, 1961. This rule encompasses lotteries, betting on races, card games or any other game, and gambling or betting of any form or nature is taxed at a flat rate of 30%. It even applies to crossword puzzles!
With so many drawbacks for Indian players, it is, therefore, in the interest of online casinos in India, to make it as easy and smooth a process as possible for Indian players to sign up and deposit at their online casinos, where foreign and domestic laws allow.