Figuring out Indian gambling law, particularly as it pertains to online casinos, is a daunting task. The national government has frowned upon gambling since the mid-1800s. Even after India became an independent nation in 1947, the country preferred to let the individual states (29 of them) decide for themselves.
In any case, it should come as no surprise that the people in a state on the western Indian coast might see gambling differently than people living in one of the eastern states.
In this article, we’ll do our best to sort out the differences and the similarities—as well as the many inviting possibilities—of the various approaches to online gambling in India.
Is There Online Gambling in India?
Gambling law in India is fickle and contradictory only when you observe if from afar. It seems as though laws conflict with rules that amend acts that repeal regulations.
What else would you expect from a nation home to 1.3 billion (that’s Billion with a capital “OMG”) people?
How the local government deals with your wish to gamble at an online casino depends on which of the 29 Indian states you’re standing in, what language you speak, what game you want to play, and—we’re just guessing here—what you had for lunch.
Back in 1867, the Indian government passed The Public Gambling Act. Obviously, there were no such things as online casinos or cryptocurrencies at the time, so the act busied itself with defining what gambling was and establishing the ground rules for the pressing debate: whether rummy is a game of “mere skill” or one of chance.
As far as gambling is concerned, The Public Gaming Act was the law of the land until 1947. Along the way, there were a few fillips and addenda added to the federal government’s general approach to gambling, such as the Bombay Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887 – the name alone provides more than just a hint as to which side of the gambling question Indian legislation was on.
All that changed, more or less, in 1947 when India declared independence from the British. While the 1867 Public Gambling Act remained in force, the new federal government decided individual states should make their own decisions about gambling.
By the way, we haven’t forgotten that in addition to the 29 states in India, there are also seven “Union Territories.” These territories are not self-governing, but rather, are administered by the federal government, much like the District of Columbia is administered by the US federal government in Washington.
In any case, some states, like Assam and Odisha (formerly known as Orissa and still referred to as such on some websites), simply banned all gambling outright—online, offline, behind the barn, no matter the location, placing, or taking a bet in those two states is verboten. It’s possible that uttering the rhetorical question, “Wanna bet?” in these states could be construed as a solicitation to commit a crime.
Other states, like Goa and Sikkim, allow brick and mortar casinos to operate within their boundaries. While the concept of online casinos might have been vague or unknown at the time states legalized gambling, online casinos and their customers have proceeded as though the permission were extended to them.
Situated by the Arabian Sea on the western side of India, Goa—along with the seacoast Union Territory Daman and Diu—legalized gambling within their borders with The Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act, 1976. While the Act obviously could not address the Internet or cryptocurrency, it opened the country to a less than prohibitive way of looking at gambling.
Look to The East
Far to the east, the states of Nagaland and Sikkim recognized the popularity online casinos might enjoy in a not-too-distant future and took two very divergent approaches to it.
The Nagaland Prohibition of Gambling and Promotion of Online Games of Skill Act, 2016, chose to cleave closely to the colonial laws set in 1867 and concerned itself only with games of “mere skill” such as sudoku, bridge, poker, rummy, nap, spades, and solitaire. As the Act’s title rather strongly suggests, it prohibited all others.
The Act generously permits any online casino licensed in Nagaland to offer its games of “mere skill” to residents of other Indian states, provided those other states permit it.
In any case, a number of online casinos took advantage of Nagaland’s licensing almost before the ink was dry, each paying millions of rupees in licensing fees for the opportunity to offer Nagalanders the exciting experience of playing online real money solitaire.
No, we’re just kidding. Actually, poker is also considered a game of skill, and most of Nagaland’s licensees are providing that, and in some cases, only that.
Missed It by That Much
The state of Sikkim, on the other hand, dove into the whole internet gambling business with an energy and commitment that some might consider manic. Starting with The Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Act, 2008, then with The Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Amendment Act a scant year later, the state of Sikkim set out to define, license, and regulate every possible facet of online gambling.
There was just one problem with this: Sikkim would only license an online casino physically operating from a location within its borders, and further that this online casino was only offering gambling options to residents who were also physically located in Sikkim.
Interestingly enough, no online casinos based in Sikkim have been licensed there. It is anyone’s guess as to whether that indicates the absence of online casinos based in Sikkim, or the industry’s lack of interest in investing millions in a physical operation in a state that may, at any time, rescind its license.
And in any case, Sikkim amended another law in 2016, Sikkim Casinos (Control & Tax) Rules 2007, to prohibit its residents from entering any online betting establishment, including online casinos.
Certainly, there are a handful of brick and mortar casinos along the western coast of India. Of course, you have your state-run lotteries. And let’s not forget betting on the “mere skill” sports of cricket and horse racing. These all exist and prosper in India. In real life as well as online.
As do online poker rooms. Since poker (and in some states, rummy) is defined as a game of skill, it is allowed by most Indian states, and consequently, online poker rooms are popular on Indian computer screens. Online Rummy for money, however, is typically prohibited in the states of Telangana, Assam, Nagaland, and Odisha.
Aside from the head fakes of Nagaland and Sikkim, there have been few real indications that India is moving away from its centuries-old attitude of “neither a gambler nor a casino be” to “well, they’re gonna do it anyway, we might as well tax it.”
Not ideal, certainly, but there you are.
Just because India is—at best—a problematic venue for online casinos doesn’t mean there aren’t numerous online gambling establishments eager to test India’s prohibitive resolve.
Perhaps that eagerness to enter the Indian market is enhanced by the fact that there appears to be no record of an Indian citizen arrested, incarcerated, or fined for placing a bet with an online casino based outside India’s boundaries.
Naturally, games of “mere skill” such as rummy and nap (an old game, similar to euchre, named after Napoleon) will feature prominently here, particularly on those online casinos licensed in Nagaland.
But there are many online casinos that feature the more common online gambling options. India-friendly online casinos provide video poker and a wide variety of slots from the world’s leading software developers like Microgaming, BetSoft, and iSoftBet, as well as from the more local software developers such as Jeet Gaming.
They offer the usual plethora of table games, as well, with the more popular games like blackjack, Caribbean stud, and Ultimate Texas Hold’em sharing space with the more exotic sic bo and pai gow poker.
Live dealer tables offer a decidedly European-Asian mixture of games such as baccarat, Dragon Tiger, sic bo, and roulette—but may also offer live dealer Andar Bahar (or “Katti”) table or even a Tambola (“Housie”) table for Indian patrons.
Your smartphone doesn’t get shortchanged at online casinos in India. Most of the online casinos we visited that cater to India residents offered a wide range of mobile apps to play their many slots, video poker, and even live dealer games on your phone or other mobile device.
One difference with India-friendly online casinos—more sites than you might expect will require you to download proprietary software to play at least some of their games, regardless of the size or mobility of your computer.
While most India-friendly online casinos accept rupee deposits from the usual sources—bank wire transfer, credit cards, eChecks and the like—many Indians are discovering the usefulness of cryptocurrencies and e-wallets for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that they provide anonymity to the transaction.
For instance, a hundred Indian Rupees (referred to interchangeably as Rs 100 or 100 INR) might be used to purchase Bitcoin (the first cryptocurrency), which then might be used anonymously in any number of transactions. The Bitcoin you just purchased is virtual money, and you store it on your computer or mobile phone in an app called an “e-wallet” (sometimes called “iwallet” or m-wallet”).
These e-wallet apps range from Bitcoin Core and Electrum, to Exodus, Rippex, and Jaxx. Neteller and Skrill should be considered as well, despite the fact that they are online systems (rather than monetary data curated on your own computer). They both accept deposits of cryptocurrencies, and many online casinos can handle deposits and withdrawals from them.
Owning and using cryptocurrency requires some study, so read up on the subject before you dive in. By the way: The vast majority of online casinos serving India accept deposits (and pay out withdrawals) in cryptocurrency.
Deposit options usually include many of the following:
- Credit Cards
The usual withdrawal options at India-friendly online casinos are:
- Bank Transfer
- Credit Cards
Withdrawal times tend to be between one and five days, except for withdrawals made to either Skrill or Neteller, which are often immediate.
Incidentally, Indians must pay rather exorbitant taxes on online poker winnings: a bit over 30%. Also, single wins at poker of Rs 10,000 or more require the poker room to deduct the tax immediately (TDS, or “Tax Deducted at Source”). How this nationwide tax affects other gambling on the Internet is unclear. Check with a good local attorney specializing in India online casino law to be sure.
You’ll know he’s an attorney specializing in India online casino law by the perpetually dazed and confused expression on his face.
Surprisingly, bonuses offered by India-friendly online casinos for sign-ups and reloads are not particularly competitive in the world of online gambling. Welcome bonuses of 20% to 100% appear to be the average range, with some sites paying you a referral fee of up to Rs 1000 (about 14 US Dollars) per friend who signs up.
The playthrough (or rollover) on bonuses offered by India-friendly online casinos is relatively generous—20x bet + bonus is not uncommon (the global average we’ve seen is 30x bet + bonus).
The Customer Service
Nothing’s perfect, they say, and that applies to online casinos. So it should be a relief to discover that the India-friendly online casinos we visited offered multiple methods to get questions answered and problems resolved. From toll-free numbers to live chat and email support, the online casinos appear well-prepared to serve your needs.
With the legality of online gambling in flux among and between the various Indian states, where you choose to gamble and how you choose to make deposits and withdrawals are major considerations.
License and Registration, Please
Make sure the India online casino you choose to register with is licensed by a known governmental entity. All of the following countries regularly license and regulate online casinos:
- United Kingdom
- Isle of Man
- Kahnawake (Canadian Mohawks)
In addition to licensing, all of the above-noted governments have rules regulating what an online casino may and may not do. Naturally, some are lax while others are quite strict, but a license from any of them provides a modicum of assurance that the gambler is protected from fraud and/or theft.
Bitcoin Is Your Friend
With online anonymity becoming more important every day, and the increasing presence of the various governments in every aspect of the banking industry, bank accounts and credit cards are becoming less advantageous to the occasional gambler.
And while some countries have simply banned e-wallets or anonymous funding sources like Skrill and Neteller (and even PayPal), online casinos serving India enjoy a wide range of options they may offer the Indian gambler.
As we noted earlier, cryptocurrency and e-wallets require some study before trying them out. Be sure to read as much as you can about Bitcoin, for example, and while you’re at it, learn the difference between an e-wallet and an m-wallet.
Keep Up with the News
Speaking of studying, nowhere in the world is online gambling more volatile and subject to change than in India. Simply use a search engine to find the latest news of online gambling in India. Many search engines allow you to actually set up alerts, sending you an email whenever, for example, “online gambling in India” appears in a news story.
Ain’t the Internet grand?
If It Was Easy, Everybody’d Be Doing It
Armed with the knowledge we’ve gathered, you should be better suited to succeed in the world of Indian online casinos. We’ve given you a brief look at the chaos that is India’s response to gambling in general and online casinos in particular. We’ve even shown you the many options for banking deposits and withdrawals offered by online casinos in India.
We’ve pointed out that India online casinos include all your favorite games, including some India favorites like rummy and Andar Bahar. What more could we do? Ah yes, we could give you a list of India-friendly online casinos to visit and see for yourself.
Oh, wait a minute—we already did that! Back at the beginning, remember? Or did the history lesson make you fall asleep and forget? Never mind. We won’t hold it against you. Go and take a look at those top India online casino sites now.