India is the fastest-growing emerging market in the world. With more than 500 million smartphone users and more than 70% of whom use mobile internet, it ranks second behind China in terms of mobile penetration. E-commerce companies, social media companies, and other internet-based companies see India as having huge potential. Cheap smartphones, and the most affordable mobile data prices in the world are fueling a deeper reach of such companies. Even mobile gaming is a huge market in India. Until it was banned, India was one of the biggest markets for mobile games like PUBG. Online betting in India has also seen a huge spurt of growth recently.
Along with online betting, online casinos are also popular with Indians. According to a report by Maple Capital Advisors, the online gambling industry is worth close to a billion dollars in India and is expected to grow at more than 40% each year. So what does it tell us about the present and future of gambling in India?
Here are some things that the Government can take note of:
Current gambling laws
The current laws regarding gambling in India is a legal quagmire, as it was written more than 150 years ago. The Public Gambling Act, passed in 1867, during the British regime in India, made it illegal to run or visit a gambling house in India. After independence, there have been almost zero amendments to the law, except for the fact that states got more autonomy to frame their own acts.
Goa and Sikkim are the two states, which took advantage of this liberty and allowed casinos to operate within state boundaries. For the rest of India, gambling is still banned.
Reasons for the increased popularity of online gambling
While brick and mortar casinos are banned in India, there are no specific laws governing the legality of online casinos in India. Websites hosted outside India can legally accept Indian players as of now, as they are governed by the laws of the country that they are hosted in, and not the Indian law.
Also, online gambling is extremely convenient and easy. Players can log in to a casino from anywhere, through their computers or phones, and enjoy their favorite games, 24/7.
Lessons for the government
The biggest lesson that the government needs to take away is that the times have changed. You can not let an archaic law, formed more than 150 years ago, govern the people today, who have vastly different aspirations compared to the people for whom the law was made.
Thanks to the rapidly expanding economy, individuals now have increased disposable incomes on their hands and are looking towards avenues that give them the pleasure to spend it.
All online casinos which currently accept Indian players are based outside India. The millions of dollars they earn from India each year, contribute nothing to India’s tax kitty and benefit the countries in which they are hosted.
What the government can do
The first thing that the government can do is to bring a new gambling and betting law in the country. The law should be clear enough to demarcate the difference between `games of skill´, and `games of chance´.
The legalization of betting and gambling will be a great step forward, as it will not only send a huge `underground´ industry, but it will also make it well regulated, to ensure the safety of players.
The government can also bring in a law to regulate and promote online gambling, which can allow websites based in India to accept Indian players. This will ensure that the money spent by players on such sites remains in the country, and can also help the government by generating additional tax revenue.
Legalized casinos and online gambling is a win-win situation for all the stakeholders, and the only way forward for the government, if they want to keep it regulated.