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Full of Eastern promise

Full of Eastern promise

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It may at first seem incredible to comprehend, but it appears that the Republic of India, the world’s second most populous nation, is finally considering the prospect of legalising online gambling.

Presumably aware of the vast amounts of public funds that can be generated through taxation, the government has established a seven-person investigatory panel, tasked with evaluating potential approached to legislation. This panel includes Ministers of State although no specific ministry has been delegated to create and guide this proposed new industry. However, it is widely hoped that this group will adopt a proactive approach, and come up with proposals for a safe, transparent and secure industry, and one that welcomes diligent and professional participants.

The online experience is inevitable

Anti-gambling sentiment is obviously widespread across India, this is a deeply religious country, 80% Hindu, and the government must develop a legislative framework that eases these concerns. But illegal, underground gambling is also a huge presence throughout India, with raids on illicit premises an increasingly common occurrence.

Like others around the world, the Indian government has been prompted to act in its own interests by the inevitability that accompanies the online experience. A report published earlier this year estimated that the number of online gaming users in India rose from 360 million in 2020, to 390 million in 2021, and will rise further, to 450 million, by 2023. Worth Rs79bn (US$1.01bn) in 2020, the market’s value reached Rs101bn (US$1.29bn) the following year, and the government would very much like to have a piece of this expanding action.

Creating regulatory certainty

According to the media outlet Kashmir Life, the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports has welcomed this development, stating that this is showing that the government acknowledges the online gambling industry’s role in India, and adding, “The task force is a big step in creating regulatory certainty for the nascent and fast-growing online gaming industry.”

With the exception of a Supreme Court precedent on skill-based gaming, India has never had a federal statute governing its gambling industry, with each of the 28 states adopting its own stance on the issue. But following Karnataka’s unsuccessful attempt to outlaw all forms of gambling, and as recently as this past March, an organisation called the All-India Game Federation campaigned for all states to be more proactive and develop a policy framework for online gambling.

With the true revenue potential finally becoming more widely recognised, federal and state authorities began to look closely at the possibility of opening up a regulated online gaming market in April of this year. This has ked to the government creating this working group, as it seeks to put an official regulator in place to guide and police the sector.

Online Gambling Regulation Act

The Online Gambling Regulation Act will establish a central regulator for the online gambling industry, the Online Gambling Commission. The Commission will write the rules and decide who can and cannot operate within the sector, and which citizens can and cannot be allowed to gamble. It will also have the autonomy and authority to monitor the activities of operators and punish those who don’t comply with the new laws. It will also be responsible for the issue, suspension and revocation of licences.

Like everywhere else, there will always be those within the community who wish to oppose all forms of gambling. The President of the Pattali Makkal Katchi, or Working People’s Party, Anbumani Ramadoss, is critical of India’s ruling party for progressing this legislation. But he is closing the stable door on a horse that has already bolted, and it is widely forecast that the new regulations could be in place as earlier as the end of this year. And for sure, the international industry will watch with interest as the world’s second most populous nation, an increasingly powerful industrial and commercial force, gears up to get into the game.