In the last few years, there has been a proliferation of apps through which unregulated online gambling is being promoted in India. From Rummy to Mobile Premier League, and Dream11 to Ludo Supreme – the gaming apps are involving the users in online gambling and many users have lost huge sums of money. Because online gambling is not regulated in India, there is no grievance redressal mechanism or feedback based improvement.
Recently, a petition had been filed against the Ludo Supreme app by Keshav Ramesh Mule for online gambling. After hearing the case, Bombay High Court has sought a response from the Maharashtra government on a plea seeking a clarification that “Ludo is a game of chance and not a game of skill”.
“The entire game is completely an uncertain future event and the occurrence or non-occurrence of a particular result is absolutely based on luck, or in other words based on ‘chance,'” said the petition.
Gambling and sports betting are not legal in India, but in the name of illegality, the businesses proliferate without any regulation. And this results in losses for the consumers as well as the government. If the government legalises gambling and regulates it properly like stock markets, it would earn revenue from it and the consumers would not be cheated in absence of a legal framework.
Previously, in 2018, the Law Commission of India had recommended the legalisation of gambling and sports betting in its report titled “Legal Framework: Gambling and Sports Betting including Cricket in India”. The commission chaired by Justice B S Chauhan stated, “Parliament may also enact a model law for regulating gambling that may be adopted by the states or in the alternative, Parliament may legislate in the exercise of its powers under Articles 249 or 252 of the Constitution. In case legislation is made under Article 252, states other than the consenting states will be free to adopt the same.”
The report was a result of the Commission’s study, as asked for by the Supreme Court in 2017, into the Lodha committee’s recommendation for “betting to be legalized by law” in India and the “enactment” of a suitable law for the same.
The report of the Lodha committee came after a match-fixing case, which involved Indian bowler Sreesanth and some other players. Sreesanth was banned by the BCCI, but no legal action could be taken against him because there was no law for that category of ‘Match Fixing’ as a criminal offence. According to the report, there should be strict regulations such as linking Aadhar or PAN card of the people involved in betting and gambling, as well as cashless transactions to prevent illegal activities such as money laundering. This will help the government to generate tax revenues and curb black money transactions involved in betting.
As per the report, “The Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 and the Rules…made thereunder as also the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Policy…may suitably be amended to encourage Foreign Direct Investment in the casino/online gaming industry, lawfully permitting technological collaborations, licensing and brand sharing agreements, etc.”
This will help the tourism and hospitality industry to grow and make casino businesses highly profitable. In a 2013 report, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) estimated that the underground betting market in India is huge at Rs.3,00,000 crore. Gambling and betting are currently allowed with restrictions in Goa, Daman, and Sikkim.
Since independence, there have been no effective efforts by the government to regulate the sports and gambling industry in the country. If the government regulates the industry, it can ensure free and fair competition as well as earn massive tax revenues.