The Indian government has a tough stance on gambling. It is officially frowned upon, and bookmakers often find themselves on the wrong side of the law. But exactly what are the reasons behind this legal ambiguity? Let’s take a closer look.
Gambling Envisions Ill Luck
For centuries, people in India have believed that gambling leads to bad luck. It is associated with all manner of ill health and misfortune. Local governments and traditional Hindu priests have often tried to discourage people from risking money on games of chance, such as dice, or carrying out certain religious rituals, such as the casting of horoscopes, after experiencing gambling loss. While these superstitions are largely seen as outdated, the stigma still follows those who engage in gambling activities.
But a lot has changed since the Victorian era. Gambling is seen almost everywhere, from the streets of London to the shopping malls of New Delhi. It is viewed as a pastime, a way of life, and even a form of entertainment. With the development of technology and the rise of online casinos, people have flocked to the new age of gaming with gusto.
With all the progress that has been made in the last century, it is surprising that the Indian government still hasn’t been able to leave gambling entirely behind. There have been attempts to classify gaming, attempt to regulate it, and even to tax it. But as long as there is no clear definition for what constitutes legal gambling, it’s difficult to know where to draw the line. In the same way that the Wild West proudly showcased their lawlessness, those who engage in gambling activities in India still need to know that they are breaking the law, even though it may not be widely enforced.
Gambling Is Still Seen As A Vexing Problem
Gambling is a problem in many parts of the world. It is associated with all kinds of social ills, from poverty to crime. The 2013 World Health Organization (WHO) report found that pathological gambling is a global problem, with more than 100 million adults experiencing adverse effects. It is considered the fourth most disabling condition after depression, anxiety, and alcohol abuse.
In India, as many as 15 million people are believed to be prone to gambling. It is considered another mental illness, alongside alcohol and drug abuse. But despite the prevalence of the problem, the Indian government does not consider pathological gambling to be a particularly serious issue. Because it is not a well-defined condition, there is no real clarity on what the government policy is towards it. It is seen as a bit of a nuisance, rather than a major problem. There is also a lack of awareness about how to treat it effectively. But without proper treatment, it can lead to financial hardship, and even social problems.
One of the biggest fears related to gambling is losing one’s money. It is seen as such a dangerous thing to do that there is a common saying in India: “If you must gamble, then borrow money from kind friends or relatives.” Pathological gamblers are often plagued by feelings of indebtedness and guilt, which can lead to financial problems. These individuals often find themselves in debt to bookmakers and loan sharks, who see this as an opportunity to prey on the problem gambler. Even those who aren’t financially troubled by their habit can feel badly about losing money to the point where they stop going to work. This is often cited as the main reason behind the reluctance of the Indian government to outright legalize gambling.
The Dark Side Of Gambling
Those who gamble don’t always do it for the better. Gambling is always associated with some sort of negative connotation. When people think about gambling, they often think about all the losing that goes on. But there is also the case of those who gamble for the harmful fun of it. They may gamble for the thrill of it, or even to provoke feelings of anxiety and guilt, which then make the experience more pleasurable.
These individuals often end up on the wrong side of the law, and the damage that they cause is often difficult to track. Gambling in all its many forms is often associated with crime, especially financial crime. There is also the issue of drug addiction and compulsive behavior, which can lead to further social problems. For instance, research has shown that pathological gamblers are 1.5 times more likely to be arrested, and 2.5 times more likely to be incarcerated than those who don’t suffer from the condition. This is also often connected to addictive personality disorders, like addiction to alcohol and other drugs, or a gambling addiction.
Even those who are not prone to addiction have had problems with gambling. The UK National Lottery, which is operated by the nonprofit organization the National Lottery Fund, reported in 2016 that 14.2 million people played the lottery in 2014, and 6.2 million people bought a scratch card, also known as a ‘pokie card’ or ‘poker card’ in that year. These figures represent an increase of 3.4 million players and 1.9 million card purchasers since 2013. This trend is expected to continue, with The UK Gambling Commission estimating that over 13 million people will participate in some form of gambling activity this year.
The Complexity Of Regulating Gambling
One of the reasons behind the ambiguity in India surrounding gambling is the sheer complexity of regulating it. Simply defining what constitutes gambling is challenging enough. The first step is to distinguish between legal and illegal gambling. But even then, there are various forms of gambling that the law cannot touch, but moralists and religious leaders can. The Indian government and the law sometimes come into conflict with one another, creating an interesting legal gray area. Take, for example, the case of Takuzo Okada. He was arrested in 2006 after an incident at the Taj Mahal casino. The police alleged that he stole Rs 100,000 worth of chips from the casino, but the casino denied this, claiming that Okada had bet the chips legally. The police then searched his car and found a.32 caliber revolver, which they claimed was an illegal firearm. The judge ruled that since the gun was not used to hunt, it was not illegal. But the fact that it was found in his car, which had been parked outside the casino for some time, made it admissible in court. This is one example of how the law and the authorities sometimes find themselves in a contradiction, creating a legal gray area.
How Online Casinos Changed The Game
Since the age of the internet, many countries have taken a keen interest in digital currencies and the blockchain technology that underpins them. One of the most significant cases is that of Bitcoin in India, which was originally designed to be a completely anonymous digital currency that could be used for payments online, without the need for a bank account. A lot of Bitcoin enthusiasts in India originally started out as pseudonymous identities, built up over time on the basis of existing social media platforms, like Twitter and Reddit. The Indian government has even gone as far as to propose the use of state-backed cryptocurrency, designed to be fully compliant with all regulations.
The appeal of Bitcoin and other similar cryptocurrencies in India is that they allow for greater financial freedom, and that too, under the veil of complete anonymity. However, this is largely dependent on the implementation of strong Bitcoin infrastructure in the country. There are currently only two Bitcoin ATMs in India, and both of them are located in the capital, New Delhi. The New Delhi district court, in a recent case, rejected a petition filed by an individual who sought to have her online persona, Shivaji Panda, declare that she owned Bitcoin. The judge ruled that since Bitcoin is an intangible asset, like gold or oil, it cannot be owned or used as collateral, like a house or car. However, it is considered money under the Income-Tax Act, and is therefore taxable. So if you are looking to invest in Bitcoin, setting up a virtual wallet with ShapeShift, where you can store, send, and receive payments in your preferred cryptocurrency, is the way forward.
The Rise Of eSports
The Indian government does not have a very clear stance towards sports, either. It promotes a ‘nationalist’ attitude, emphasizing the importance of Indian culture and heritage. Many towns and cities across the country hold annual sports festivals and events, often featuring various forms of martial arts, like kendo, karate, and taekwondo. It was only in 2016 that the Indian government changed its position on sports, allowing for sports betting and wagering, provided certain criteria are met. But it remains illegal to actually participate in gambling, unless you are part of an organized team. That being said, many bookmakers, online casinos, and individual gamblers operate in the country, without the knowledge or approval of the Indian government. It has also been reported that Indian athletes have taken to gambling, in an effort to overcome their professional crisis. Without a structured policy framework, it remains difficult to know how the government intends to handle the rise of eSports, and other new forms of gambling that are emerging with the advent of online betting platforms and social media.