Government of India Says Individual States Must Police iGaming Industry
India’s online gaming market continues to be one of the most promising iGaming markets worldwide, even though online gambling is banned in most states. The majority of Indian states have outdated gaming legislation that allows offshore gaming operators to offer services in India.
The current iGaming market in India is in many ways like an outlaw town in the Wild West. There are laws in place to keep iGaming operators from setting up shop in town, but no laws prevent them from visiting the town. When it comes to enforcing the law on iGaming operators, the Mayor claims it is the sheriff’s job, and the sheriff claims he does not have the firepower to get the job done.
Petitions Against iGaming Operators
Several public interest litigation (PILs) have been filed in numerous states asking the state High Court to take cognizance of the situation. One of the individuals that have led the fight against the online gambling industry is Avinash Mehrotra, a financial services advisor.
Mehrotra has targeted the online gambling industry for the last few years and has filed multiple PILs. His petition states that iGaming operators deliberately violate gambling laws, foreign exchange laws, tax laws and exploit young and vulnerable Indians.
There is some truth to Mehrotra’s claims, as India currently does not have a gambling watchdog. This allows iGaming operators who have a presence in India to have a free hand regarding their promotions, bonuses, terms, and conditions. Many online casinos don’t have any responsible gambling measures in place, and a lot of them don’t follow any know-your-customer verification procedures.
Mehrotra filed a petition with the Delhi High Court recently claiming that the Centre needs to do more to protect Indian players and curb the freedom of iGaming operators. Mehrotra highlights that unscrupulous organizations and individuals are using online casinos to carry out money laundering activities. He also pointed out that gambling-related suicides amongst young Indians were increasing, and so were gambling-related debts.
Centre Files Affidavit With High Court
The Central Government filed an affidavit with the Delhi High Court to highlight its role and responsibilities regarding the PIL by Mehrotra. The Centre stated that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) could not get involved and ban online gambling sites as they did not come under their jurisdiction.
The Centre informed the High Court that it was the individual responsibility of each state to determine whether they wanted a legalized online gambling market to operate or if they wanted to ban online gambling. If a state wanted to legalize online gambling, it would have to pass the necessary legislation and impose gaming regulations. If a state wanted to ban online gambling, it would have to put in place the necessary protocols to ensure that iGaming is banned.
The Delhi High court has heard the views of the Centre and has now scheduled the PIL for another hearing on October 11, 2021.
States Struggling To Enforce iGaming Ban
Some states like Andhra Pradesh have decided in the recent past to ban online gambling. However, this hasn’t stopped iGaming operators from continuing to offer their services in Andhra Pradesh because the state government does not have the power or resources at the moment to ban offshore iGaming sites.
Mehrotra and other anti-iGaming petitioners realise that state governments are struggling to enforce the iGaming ban and have thus asked the Centre and the Ministry of Finance to lend a helping hand and block these offshore iGaming sites. However, the Centre has made it clear that MEITY cannot ban online casinos or sports betting sites.
If MEITY was to take any action against unlawful iGaming sites, it would violate the authority of the state government, resulting in a conflict of power.
With the Centre passing the buck and the state government clueless on enforcing their online gambling ban, online casinos and sportsbooks continue to operate in India with a lot of freedom.
Online Casinos Adding Sports Betting Option
The demand for online casino games such as slots, table games, jackpot games, and live dealer games continues to grow in India. Sports betting is also getting much attention as global sports have resumed after COVID-19 brought the sporting world to an abrupt halt in 2020.
Indian punters prefer to sign up with an online casino that has a sportsbook as it allows them to enjoy the benefits of casino games and sports betting in the same place. Many iGaming operators are looking at adding a sportsbook to their online gaming offerings in India.