Gambling in India
INDIA is a sports betting-mad nation with limited legal options, although as time progresses it is likely this subcontinent sleeping giant will bring in further regulation surrounding gambling and it will become a massive revenue generator for the government. At present some of the only forms of legal gambling in India are lotteries and horse racing, although millions of Indians gamble with offshore companies, hosted and licensed in other countries, and have faced no sanctions from local authorities.
This article will give you an overview of existing laws, types of gambling available (both legal and illegal), what are some of the popular sports to bet on and a history of how gambling and sports betting in particular have become so popular; plus information about the amazing floating casinos in Goa, the only legal gambling venues in the country, which pumped Rs. 200 crores into the local economy in 2017.
Sports betting in India
Cricket is the obvious major driver behind sports betting in India, with billions of rupee wagered annually on the country’s No.1 pursuit. Having said that, cricket is not the only thing Indians love to bet on, with major international basketball (NBA and Euro leagues), football competitions (EPL, La Liga & more) and horse racing (Australia, India, New Zealand, Hong Kong and USA) all receiving plenty of attention from locals.
While there are plenty of underground betting shops throughout India (we can certainly attest to this) the No.1 option to bet on sports in 2019 is via mobile or computer with one of the many sports betting companies that operate in the grey market of India. What do we mean by grey market? Well, to put it simply there are no laws stopping Indians from betting on sports on the web with offshore operators although each state in India has its own laws surrounding sports betting.
Cricket betting in India
Cricket in India is a religion of its own. Cricket is one of the most wagered-on sports in the world, mainly because of its popularity in this country. The T20 Indian Premier League is the No.1 competition for cricket betting globally and features many of the best players in the shortest form of the game, including many international stars.
If the Indian Test team, its one-day (50-over) outfit or its T20 team are playing, the country nearly comes to a stop, as heroes such as Virat Kohli strut their stuff. Right around the world the popularity of the Indian team is evident, with huge numbers of Indian fans often outnumbering those for the home team.
We say there is just one rule to betting on India in cricket, especially in the long forms: if they are playing at home they will win and if they are away, tread warily, because their record for such a talented team is quite abysmal. Although their Test series victory over Australia in Australia in the 2018-19 series has gone a long way to dispelling this notion, despite the Aussies missing several stars through suspension.
Best online bookmakers for Indians
WGL fully expects the Indian betting landscape to be shaken up significantly in coming years, but as of February 2019, there are plenty of great offshore betting sites that accept Indians and cater to the INR currency.
We recommend the following gambling sites:
Betway: One of the most well-known gambling companies in Europe which also has a strong presence in Asia, including India. Has plenty of different betting options including extensive cricket markets and international sports.
Dafabet: Is a company that focuses largely on Asia and is based out of the Philippines. Has a great reputation and caters to the Indian rupee. Supports multiple languages, has plenty of sports betting options and also boasts great live casino and slots games.
Bet365: The self-proclaimed world’s biggest bookmaker has a huge presence in India and probably is the most well-known brand. The cricket betting options are seemingly endless, with all the T20 and international matches covered. You will also find extensive international sports betting markets and a great selection of live streaming.
Lotteries in India
Lotteries in India are allowed and they’re not banned at a Federal level like other forms of gambling. However, there are still only 13 states that host lottery in India. One of the more well-known lottery brands in India is PlayWin.com which is licensed in the state of Sikkim. In total there are more than 300 lottery draws each week across the entirety of the states which regulate lottery, these states are:
The biggest prize in an Indian lottery to date was in 2017 when the Sikkim-based PlayWin’s Thursday draw paid a Rs. 17crore Rupee jackpot, which is over $2.2 million USD. Obviously these draws pale in comparison to those held in many other countries, but they are still life-changing wins and lotto is incredibly popular with locals.
Despite only some states regulating lottery draws in India it is still commonplace for citizens to play online lotto, which is basically the same as betting on lotto draws from around the world. It gives you the opportunity to win the huge dividends available in many foreign draws.
Online lotteries in India
These have been going on forever in India but it’s the offshore online threat that has really moved front and centre. Millions of Indians are playing at lotto betting sites, which allows them to wager on the massive draws right around the world – including the US and UK (think Powerball and EuroMillions) draws which can reach into the tens of millions of US dollars.
Because many Indian bank cards won’t work with offshore gambling websites, many people will use web wallet services such as Neteller to get around this problem. There are a multitude of ways to fund gambling accounts from India though, which we will go into in more detail in this article.
Horse racing in India
Horse racing in India has been running for more than 200 years after beginning in Madras in 1777. These days there are nine race tracks under the watchful eye of six governing bodies.
One of the unique aspects of horse racing in India is that it is restricted to Indian-bred horses, but this does not necessarily make it weak, with stallions imported from places such as the US, Australia and France. Breeding of horses in India is tracked by the Indian Stud Book.
On-course you will find both pool betting (parimutuel betting) and traditional bookies and there are online betting options based offshore which will accept your custom, although this is frowned upon by local authorities.
How does horse racing in India get around the strict gambling laws? It’s deemed a game of skill, rather than chance, hence it’s not really classified as sports betting.
Gambling laws in India
Gambling in India is governed by the states and they are responsible for regulating and enacting any gambling within the United Provinces. Central Provinces, East Punjab and Delhi specifically forbid any public gaming houses.
There are several federal laws that also must be abided by in each of the 29 Indian states, including:
The Public Gaming Act of 1867: This law states that it is illegal to operate or be the person in charge of a public gaming house. Under this law you can be fined ₹200 or imprisoned for up to three months. This piece of legislation also prohibits people from visiting gambling houses, although the fine and penalty are just one third of what an instigator receives.
Entry No.34 of List II of the Constitution of India: This legislation allows the states in India to make laws surrounding betting and gambling. This law is also the one used to challenge the Public Gaming Act and run public gaming houses. It is also the law that in time is expected to be amended to allow the states to regulate online gambling.
Information Technology Act 2000: This legislation is sweeping and covers many aspects of the internet, including providing services and information that can corrupt people This act also includes provisions surrounding online gambling with the top penalties for providing a service from India being ₹100,000 or up to 5 years in jail.
While the aforementioned legislation in India is hardly clear in the digital age, it has put a serious dent in the capability of Indians to wager on sports, with parts of these laws often enforced and large-scale betting rings busted and arrests made. Muddying the laws further is that many of India’s states have brought in legislation surrounding gambling. Two of the key states to bring in legislation to allow some forms of gambling are Delhi and Goa.
Delhi Public Gambling Act 1955: This legislation stops gaming in the union territory of Delhi, but makes an exception for “games of mere skill”.
Bombay Wager Act: This legislation bans online gambling in the state of Maharashtra.
Three states in India — Goa, Daman and Sikkim — have enacted laws that allow casinos, which since they have been operating have shown considerable growth, despite plenty of political wrangling and tougher operating conditions being enforced.
In July of 2018, the Law Commission submitted a document to the government titled Legal Framework: Sports Betting & Gambling which strongly recommends legalising gambling in India. The document speaks about running a completely cash-less industry which will be closely monitored. It recommends either allowing the states to regulate and license gambling themselves or federally enacting laws surrounding the regulated industry.
The Law Commission’s reasoning for regulating the industry was that the inability to ban it completely was creating corruption in sports and crime. The government is also keen on receiving tax for the money being spent by Indians.
Despite these recommendations the Central Government of India is noncommittal on legalising more forms of gambling, with Union Minister of Law and Justice Ravi Shankar on record in mid-December 2018 saying it was “not desirable at present”, although he did clarify his statements by saying unless a complete ban could be implemented, legalising it must be considered.
Gambling by state in India
Andhra Pradesh (Hyderabad)
Arunachal Pradesh (Itanagar)
Jammu & Kashmir (Srinagar)
Andaman and Nicobar Islands(Port Blair)
Dadra and Nagar Haveli(Silvassa)
Daman & Diu(Daman)
The Government of NCT of Delhi(Delhi)
Land-based casinos in India
When you think of casino gambling in India, the marvellous floating casinos in Goa spring to mind. These, as the name suggests, are boats or ferries on the Goa River which house gambling activities such as slots and table games. There are also six land-based casinos in Goa, with ongoing discussions about relocating the floating casinos into the zoned area.
Another state in India which features legal gambling is Sikkim, which has both land-based gambling venues and regulated sports betting shops. Sikkim is also pushing to be a leader in online wagering, with the state hoping to soon issue online casino licences. In what form or how it will work is still unclear. The two casinos in Sikkim are called Casino Sikkim and Casino Mahjong.
Daman is the only other state in India which has a casino and regulation surrounding it, with the Deltin Daman Casino a popular destination.
Gambling in the three provinces with land-based casinos falls under the Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gaming Act, 1976, which says that venues can only be set up at five-star hotels or on boats and must have prior permission of the government.
Floating casinos of Goa
This is really one of the places you have to see to believe. It’s kind of like how you would imagine Las Vegas to be if it was in Water World (great movie by the way). There are plenty of hustlers getting around these parts so be careful when visiting, but you will also experience one of the most unique gambling experiences a person can have.
In total there are six floating casinos in Goa and they remain a huge tourist attraction, both for Indians visiting Goa and international punters. Many of the games have a distinctly local flavour or have been tweaked for the local market.
Online casinos in India
If you are new to online casinos and are looking to play from India it is possible, although there are no operators licensed in India, as this would be illegal. Instead you can play at offshore casinos based in places such as Belize, Curacao, Gibraltar and many other licensing jurisdictions. Some of the best licensing jurisdictions like the United Kingdom Gambling Commission frown on their licensees operating in India, although many still do. Some of our favourite online casinos that accept Indians include:
Dafabet: Has over 1000 real money games and a great reputation among players for fast payouts and understanding the Indian market. The casino does have a distinctly Asian flavour and has some games that only players in India will be familiar with.
Jeetwin: Licensed in Curacao, this website only accepts Indian players. Has some sensational games that are directly targeting the India market including live Andar Bahar (also known as Katti) and other casino favourites such as baccarat and blackjack.
Online casino games availability
The best part about gambling online is that the games options are almost unlimited. You can play 1000s of different slots games, live dealer where games are streamed via a video feed and other types of games like video poker.
Expect more online iGaming companies to spend more money developing games targeting Indians in the coming years as regulation becomes a reality. This means traditional games such as Andar Bahar, Teen Patti and Jhandi Munda (which you can find at Jeetwin) will become more prevalent.
Mobile gambling and sports betting
While we will go into mobile sports betting and gambling in greater depth in other articles, it is fair to say that if you can do it from an internet connection you will be able to do it from your mobile device in 2019. Most gambling and betting sites will have responsive or separate mobile sites which mean they will show up perfectly whether you are on a tablet or mobile phone. Often the mobile version of websites will not be as well equipped as the desktop version (think deposits and game/bet selection) but there is plenty to keep the average punter happy.
Gambling apps in India
Because gambling in India is heavily restricted there are limited gambling apps available to those who use Apple products. This is because they are hell-bent on not running foul of authorities. This means those using iPhones or iPads must use the mobile websites instead of a local application.
This differs for Android users though because they have the ability to use non-market apps, or in simpler terms apps that are directly downloaded from third-party sources. Having said this it doesn’t mean every sports betting or online casino company will have an app available for Android users – it just means they might have one available.
An alternative way to give users quick access to a betting product is by creating a web app, which is simply a desktop shortcut that allows you to visit the mobile website of the company quickly – which is easily doable from both Apple and Android products.
Other users who don’t use the two most prominent types of mobile devices will be restricted to using the mobile version of the chosen sites website.
How to fund a gambling account
One of the major obstacles put in front of Indians when it comes to gambling on the internet is funding your account, with many bank cards not working with offshore websites. If you do fall into this category there are ways to get around this payment blocking, including using a third party like Skrill or Neteller to act as the middle man between yourself and the gambling website at which you are looking to deposit.
INR deposit options
There are a select and growing group of online casinos accepting Indian Rupees (INR) deposits. This means you deposit using your card or another method and your balance at the casino will be displayed in the local currency.
Other casinos that accept Indians won’t have INR available, but you will still be able to deposit and display your balance in USD or another currency of your choice. Be wary when this happens because in some cases you can lose a small percentage of your bankroll in conversion fees.
It is also important to note gambling deposits can be troublesome to offshore websites from India. This is because of the 1999 Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) which treats gambling deposits like foreign exchanges.
Another problem with INR deposits to offshore sites can be credit card blocking, which has worked on a limited level, although again there are ways to get around this, including the use of a web wallet such as Neteller to add another layer between you and the gambling site.
Status of Indian credit card deposits
Credit card deposits can often be problematic when depositing from India, with this extending to Visa and Mastercard debit deposits. It’s the same with American Express cards in India although having said this it’s always worth trying your card, because it might work.
Why web wallets make sense
Neteller and Skrill, which are digital web wallets, have become the punter’s best friend in India. They allow you to use your regular credit or debit card to add money to them where it turns into a digital balance. You then can transfer the money with absolute ease to a gambling site. Some of the world’s biggest brands have INR deposits available and accept common web wallets. There are plenty of other web wallets but the two mentioned are easily the biggest and best ones servicing India.
Bank wires or transfers
These allow you to send money directly from your bank account to another bank account, in our case one held by the chosen gambling site. These transactions are usually reasonably foolproof given the account you are sending the money to is usually held locally and often won’t be identified obviously as a gambling website’s bank account.
Other common ways to fund your account in India are:
- Citadel Direct
Bollywood movies about gambling
Gambling and Bollywood have often collided to reach our screens and some great titles have been released over the years. Some of our favourites include:
The Great Gambler (1979): Stars well-known Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan as Jai, who is as the title suggest a great gambler. But the Indian version of the mob gets wind of it and hires him in an attempt to win huge sums of money. Obviously things don’t go exactly as planned but we won’t give too much away.
Striker (2010): A true story about a youngster — Surya — who comes from a poor family but is a prodigy at popular South Asian game carrom and wins a big tournament. However, he ends up getting involved in the high-stakes gambling world. The move stars Siddharth from Rang De Basanti as the lead man.
Teen Patti (2010): Probably our favourite movie about gambling in India, featuring Oscar winner Ben Kingsley. The cast also includes R Madhaven, Shradda Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan and Raima Sen. The movie is based around Bachchan’s character, who is a mathematics professor writing a thesis about probability and its relationship to the popular Indian poker variant Teen Patti. While the movie starts innocently enough the characters are soon sucked into the dark world of casinos and partying.
Gambling companies in India
Because India does not have many regulated gambling options there are not many companies based here, although this is expected to change as the country becomes more accustomed and legalises more forms of wagering. Some of the companies that operate from India in 2019 include:
Delta Corp: Is the only publicly listed gaming company in India, holding the licences for three offshore (floating) casinos in Goa and one of the land-based venues. The company also has a casino in Sikkim and is awaiting licensing for a casino resort in Daman, with this approval being fought out in the state’s courts. Delta is also the parent company of Advani Pleasure Cruise Co which operates the well-known Casino Goa.
Pride Group: Is a privately owned casino company that owns several casinos in the Goa region, including Casino Pride and several smaller onshore casinos. While Delta is very popular with tourists and has what could be described as hefty entry fees for locals, the Pride Group caters to the Indian market and keeps costs down. The casinos’ game selection is also heavily catered towards local punters.