Is Gambling Legal in India?

A Comprehensive Overview

India, a country of diverse cultures and traditions, also presents a complex mosaic when it comes to the regulations around gambling. Given the size of the country and its population, it becomes even more crucial to understand the nuances of its gambling laws. This blog will delve into the intricacies of gambling's legal status in India, its history, and how states in India treat this subject differently.

Historical Context

India's history with gambling dates back to ancient times. The famous Indian epic, the Mahabharata, has a storyline pivoted around a dice game that led to a great war. However, modern-day India's stance on gambling is less from mythological perspectives and more from a regulatory standpoint.

The Public Gambling Act of 1867

The foundation of gambling laws in India lies in the Public Gambling Act of 1867, a colonial-era law. This act makes running a public gambling house and visiting one illegal. However, it’s pertinent to note that this act only pertains to games of chance and not those of skill.

Game of Chance vs. Game of Skill

Indian law distinguishes between games of chance and games of skill. The latter is exempted from the purview of gambling. For instance, card games like rummy are considered a game of skill as they require a certain level of expertise, strategy, and practice. On the other hand, casino games like roulette are predominantly reliant on luck, classifying them as games of chance.

State-wise Jurisdiction

India is a federal country, and states have the right to draft their laws on various subjects, including gambling. This results in a patchwork quilt of regulations across the country:

  1. Goa, Daman, and Diu: These territories have licensed brick-and-mortar casinos. Goa, in particular, is a popular destination for both domestic and international tourists, thanks to its offshore casinos.
  2. Sikkim: It is pioneering in terms of its approach to gambling, offering both land-based casinos and an online gaming license.
  3. Nagaland: The state has a licensing regime for online games of skill.
  4. West Bengal: While the state allows card games and poker, it restricts wagers on rummy.
  5. Assam and Odisha: Both states have laws that are ambiguous, leading to debates on the legality of card games.

The Emergence of Online Gambling

The digital age has introduced a fresh set of challenges and opportunities. While the Public Gambling Act of 1867 doesn’t explicitly mention online gambling, states have begun addressing it individually. Sikkim, for example, has moved towards licensing and regulating online gaming.

However, the rapid growth of online platforms has caused concerns, leading some states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu to ban certain online games.


Lotteries fall under a unique category. The Central Government passed the Lotteries (Regulation) Act in 1998, allowing state governments to organize, conduct, or promote a lottery. Today, many states in India have their lotteries, while others have banned them.

Betting on Horse Racing

Another exception in India's gambling laws is horse racing. The Supreme Court of India ruled that betting on horse races is a game of skill, not chance. Therefore, it's legal to bet on horse racing in the country.

Final Thoughts

The landscape of gambling in India is multifaceted. While there's a general inclination towards prohibition, several exceptions, influenced by cultural, historical, and economic factors, shape the country's approach. As technology advances and the allure of online gaming grows, it’s possible we might see more comprehensive, central legislation addressing the various facets of gambling. Until then, residents and visitors in India must tread carefully, being aware of the laws governing their particular locale.

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