The history of gambling in India can be likened to that of two star-crossed lovers who are continuously being separated by circumstances but who somehow manage to persistently find their way to each other, time and time again. That is to say that gambling is generally banned through-out India despite the fact that it has always existed here in some shape or form.
For most Indian states, The Public Gambling Act of 1867 still holds sway. This is a central law that prohibits people from running or visiting gambling houses. The states of Goa and Sikkim are an exception to this, though, since each state has been empowered to formulate their own laws in relation to gambling activities. On top of that, five-star casinos and off-shore vessels are also exempted from this rule. According, to the Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gaming Act of 1967, they too can facilitate physical casinos.
Apart from these means, there are also loopholes in the existing legislation which still need to be clarified. For instance, there is no clear demarcation between skills of game and skills of chance. Such a distinction needs to be made because games of skill are exempted from the ambit of gambling. While games of chance are not. However, there are many games that involve gambling but also a certain level of skill such as Rummy. This leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation and misunderstanding.
Another matter that needs to be considered is that of online casinos. The Information Technology Act 2000, which regulates cyber activities in India, did not mention online gambling or betting. As such, off-shore companies are able to offer casino sites focused on Indian players. This is a growing market that is not currently being maximized by Indian casinos due to the current restrictions.
As a young industry, online gambling has received mixed responses from the Indian states. The state of Sikkim planned to offer three gambling licenses in 2010 before the deal fell through. Meanwhile, the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have maintained that online gambling is banned for their people.
Regardless of its reception among lawmakers, online casinos have certainly made their mark in India, especially during the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. As people sheltered indoors during the lockdown, a great number of them chose to spend their idle time indulging in their favorite online casino games, provided by safe and reliable gaming operators who hold an international license.
Despite the rising demand for it, however, the old narrative of gambling as a dangerous habit still lingers. Although it is a controversial issue for some, there are actually practical and beneficial reasons for improving regulation rather than maintaining a stringent ban. Let’s go through some of them.
Higher Tax Revenue
Some aspects of the existing gambling modes have already been touched by taxes like income tax and good and services tax. However, when gambling is legalized, licensing fees can be collected. The additional revenue gained from this can be used to further important causes like education and healthcare. Think of how many schools and hospitals can be supported with that additional revenue.
Increase of Employment and Business Opportunities
Previously, we talked about offshore companies which have been enticing the Indian market to participate in their online casinos. With the legalization of gambling, local Indian casinos will finally be able to open, and as their operations continue to grow, so will the number of employment opportunities they offer. The economy has suffered much from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the boom of these new businesses will surely help in our recovery.
Opening New Avenues in Tourism
Although travel restrictions are still tight in some places, the time will come when tourism will gain traction again. People will look for places which can provide them with experiences previously denied to them, when most of the world was under lockdown. With the backdrop of our vibrant culture, casino houses will surely be a shimmering gem in our precious crown of tourist attractions. And as a bonus, this will open up even more business opportunities for locals who wish to welcome tourists with great hospitality.
Regardless of which perspective on gambling you are inclined to take, what remains true is that progress will march on whether we chose to join it or not. Recent developments mentioned earlier have revealed a lot of gaps in existing regulations. With the new circumstances, comes the need for better responses that can help us keep abreast with other nations. Legalizing gambling might not entirely be conventional, but it is certainly an interesting and multi-faceted solution to our current situation. And if there is one thing that always helps, it is the act of considering all alternative perspectives so that we can make an informed and rational choice.
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