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Betting and gambling are illegitimate in most parts of the country. However, there are no concise laws present in India which could make online betting or gambling illegitimate and outlawed. Betting is defined as the wagering of money or something of value on an uncertain outcome. Both parties have an equal chance to win or lose the wager. However, the primary objective of both parties is to win. Section 29 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 states that all the wagering acts are unlawful in India. Online gambling is ordinarily betting by using an online platform. Section 30 of the Indian Contract Act states that wagering agreement is unenforceable in any court of law intending to recover anything claimed to be won in any wager.
The article aims to bring all contradictory details together to give a comprehensible and succinct perspective about the legitimacy of online gambling in India.
II. ONLINE BETTING LAWS IN INDIA
Although all kinds of betting are illegal in India,there is no specific law that may tell about legality or illegality of online betting in India. However, there is one exception i.e. Horse racing, which the Supreme Court of India has declared legal as it is based on the pure skill of the person. There are various platforms like Dream11 where an Indian can participate in online gambling. While Indian Courts in its judgment held that online fantasy gaming conducted by Dream11 is a game of skill and superior knowledge and not of chance about the prediction of outcome and there is no betting involved. We will get various types of answers from various lawyers if we question web gambling laws.
One most interesting thing is that online betting is not specifically mentioned in any betting laws of the Central government. Some of the legal practitioners contend that online betting will come under section 2 of the Public Gambling Act, 1867 but the main issue behind this act is that gambling is not described under this law. Inherently it falls into the grey area of legislation. Indian Contract Act, 1872 as well not defined wagering agreement. However, it only ascertains that all agreements which come under betting and based on wager are unlawful and void in itself.
So, it is impossible to stop online betting unless and until a specified law will get enacted.
III. LAW COMMISSION ON ONLINE BETTING
The Law Commission of India has given some recommendations regarding legitimatization of regulated betting or gambling undertakings in its 276th reportand declared a boycott of betting in totality would not be coveted outcome because it is impossible to prevent these undertakings completely.
Since there are some recommendations made by the Law Commission:
Under Entry 31 of List I of the Seventh Schedule to the Indian Constitution, the Parliament has the power to enact legislation dealing with the web-based wagering and gambling.
Under articles 249 and 252 of the Indian Constitution, Parliament may exercise its power to enact a law regarding betting that the States may adopt.
All betting and gambling affairs should be connected to players as well as the operator’s identification card like Pan and Aadhar card so that it would prevent the public from ill-effects of these undertakings and provide transparency.
The transaction mode should be cashless between the player and operator,and it should be made compulsory so that appropriate authorities could keep an eye on every single transaction.
It is crystal clear from the aforementioned discussion that the betting laws in India mystifying and informally controlled. There is no specified law that can elucidate the legalization and illegalization of betting and gambling in India. Without any legislation, you have authorization to an online betting platform in India.
IV. ISSUES THAT DOMINATED THE DISCOURSE ON BETTING AND GAMBLING
A PIL was filed in the Court alleging that Dream11 collects money from users who participate in a daily game. Once the result gets declared, Dream11 divides the money among the winners of the game after deducting some part of the money in the form of their commission. So, the petitioner argued since Dream 11 makes money and offers gambling and betting and gambling operations are covered under 28% slab as per Rule 31A(3) of the CGST Rules. So, they should pay taxes on the entire collected amount under 28% slab.
In the case of Varun Gumber v. Union Territory of Chandigarh, the legality of Dream11 was challengedfirst in the High Courts of Punjab and Haryana. Dream11 argued that users do not bet on the outcome of any real-life event but they bet on real-life sportspersons and according to their performance, users get points on this platform. Hence, it was rejected by a single judge bench on the ground that there is a substantial degree of skill attached to it.
Whereas, in the case of Gurdeep Singh Sachar v. Union of India, a PIL was filed by Adv. Gurdeep Sachar challenging that Dream11 has components of chance. Hence, it should come under the ambit of betting and gambling. But the Bombay High Court rejected the plea and held that it is independent of the winning or losing. There are superior skill and knowledge involved inreal games.
In February 2020, another PIL was filed in Rajasthan High Court contending that criminal proceedings should be initiated against Dream11 because it cheated the public. However, the Court rejected initiating criminal charges against Dream11 on the ground that it falls outside the ambit of gambling under Public Gambling Act, 1867.
However, Courts examined the format of Dream11 only and did not analyze the formats of other fantasy sports gaming. Because other fantasy sports gaming platforms in India have a different formats. However, judgments delivered were specific to a general game format delivered by Dream11.
Hence, there is no question as to the legitimacy of Dream11, at least as of now because almost every case gets dismissed by the Supreme Court of India and provided consequential solace to the gaming sector as well as Dream11.
Based on what is set out above, it can be conclusively argued that fantasy sports games like Dream11 treasure depend upon the strategic degree of skill and superior knowledge. Not all fantasy sports games have been held to be games of skill and superior knowledge. Based on the reasoning of various courts, the participant is needed to form their team, viz., limits on the number of players to form a solo team, restrictions, etc. play a crucial role in canalizing the element of skill involved in a fantasy sports game.
You can bet online in India while it is legally illegitimate. So, it seems to be particularly likely entirely lawful betting will come to India instantaneously or delinquently – how far away that is, is doubtable to say.Fantasy Sports gaming is at a nascent stage in India. There are still some myths to be broken and education to be conducted about its consequences on the overall sports ecosystem.
VI. THE WAY FORWARD
In India, all the cyber activities or internet gambling are regulated under Information Technology (IT) Act, 2010. However, this act does not describe gambling or betting and has left the interpretation by the Courts of law. It is a myth that the Public Gambling Act, 1867 contains any regulations about concerning online gambling. Since Sikkim was the first state to legalize the online/internet gambling, it is expected that other states would follow Sikkim as internet gambling is making huge wealth out of internet gambling and betting. It is easy to obtain a license for legalizing an internet gambling from the government of the state which includes a license to run a receipt bet and an organization.
Therefore, the Legalization of internet gambling is the need of the hour because illegal gambling is booming terrorism and drugs. The legalization of internet gambling will bring the gambling economy from the grip of mafia and underground dons.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shailee Mishra is a 2nd year law student from University of Allahabad. She has a keen interest in Constitutional law, Criminal law and International law.