Is Betting on Cricket in India Legal?

Over the past few weeks I’ve been researching a combination of both legal sites, and cricket betting sites in India, in an attempt to get to the bottom of the question, is betting on cricket in India legal?

It’s just so hard to come to a definitive conclusion. Before I started I was of the opinion that betting on cricket in India is illegal, but there are plenty of contradictions of this view.

Before getting onto the specifics of betting on cricket in India, it is worth looking at the wider issue of betting in India in general.

Betting in India in general is a complicated issue, and one that appears to be regularly misreported in the UK. For example, in just about every TV or radio report I have ever seen or heard, it has been reported that there is a blanket ban on betting in India….. which is clearly wrong.

While it would appear totally out of the question that a mainstream UK bookmaker could turn up and open a shop on a main high street in Mumbai (if it was possible, it would surely have been done by now), it is possible to legally have a bet in India.

This can be done betting on horse races at trackside bookmakers, or pari-mutuel betting booths – both on and off course – which are managed by the Turf Authorities of India.

In addition to that, the Indian states of Goa and Sikkim are attempting to make betting in India more accessible by issuing gaming licences. Goa have recently awarded licences allowing on and off shore (cruise ships) Casinos to operate, mainly for the benefit of the tourist industry. While in the state of Sikkim, they have started to issue licences for online gambling sites, so far resulting in the creation of the PlayWin Lotto.

This shows that the usual mantra, that betting in India is illegal, is clearly wrong. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve heard the sweeping statement ‘that betting in India is illegal,’ and I believe that it’s this media generalisation of betting in India that has created the misconception that betting is illegal.

When it comes to the question of, is betting on cricket in India legal? Then the interpretation of the whole question of  ‘is betting in India legal’ takes on a whole new meaning.

If we work on an assumption that you can’t walk into the trackside bookmakers, or pari-mutuel betting booths, run by the Turf Authorities of India, and have a bet on the cricket, then that only really leaves you with the internet or underworld illegal bookmakers.

Working on the assumption (again), that the average well behaved Indian citizen doesn’t have – or wish to have – contact with such shifty characters as underworld bookmakers, then that only really leaves the internet.

So the question changes to, is opening an online bookmakers account in India illegal? Of all the reports on radio and TV I have heard and watched over many years now, that is never a question I have heard asked or addressed, we always get the sweeping statement that betting in India is illegal.

This is where I get really confused now, because if it is illegal to open an online betting account from an address within India, then why is it that a whole host of mainstream online bookmakers – household names like William Hill, Bet365, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, etc – are happy to accept customers from within India?

In the past, when online gambling was outlawed in the USA, under George W Bush, the bookmakers quickly withdrew their products from America en mass. Also, all the online bookmakers on this cricket betting website have a list of countries and territories where they won’t accept accounts from. They include countries like Germany, France, Italy, North Korea, Iran, etc, but not India.

This suggests to me that the bookmakers do take their legal responsibilities seriously, otherwise why would they go to the bother of banning customers from all these other countries? This says to me that they have done their legal homework, and as a result, are happy to accept Indian customers.

I’m still not certain online betting in India is legal though, there is just so much contradictory theory to this.

One theory I have is that maybe they believe it is a grey area of law in India, open to being challenged. I recently read a piece on a legal website that general gambling (in India) is outlawed because it is not considered a skill.That surely leaves the interpretation of ‘is it a skill’ open to challenge, as an individual could surely argue that picking a winner is in fact a skill?

Again, working on the interpretation of the law theory, I recently read that there are no specific rules regulating online gambling in India (not sure how accurate this theory is), but if it is true, then surely that means the interpretation of the law needs confirming, but again, surely it could be open to legal challenge?

I’m fairly sure that the bookmakers have sought professional advice about the legal consequences, or any risks involved in taking bets from India. It could be that the legal advice has told the bookies that it is technically legal to accept customers from within India, or it could be that the advice told them that it is open to interpretation.

What I am fairly sure of, is that the bookmakers have been told it’s not illegal, I just don’t see them ignoring Indian law in such a manner.

Reading between the lines if it was me, I would say that if you want to play things ultimately safe, then you just don’t do it. You might be breaking the law, you might not.

Ultimately it is a question for the individual involved. If you live in India and want to open an online bookmakers account, you need to be aware of any potential consequences (if any), and take an informed decision of your own.

This article isn’t to say it is legal or illegal, it is merely just pointing out some of the contradictions involved with the issues of betting in India.

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