Sports Betting: Is It Really Illegal in India?

By Singhania, Vidushpat | The International Sports Law Journal, July-October 2010 | Go to article overview
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Sports Betting: Is It Really Illegal in India?

Singhania, Vidushpat, The International Sports Law Journal


Man has always been captivated by gambling. The history books have shown that man has always indulged in this pass time and has sometimes even lead to his ruin. Indian history is strewn with such incidents. One of our most revered epics the 'Mahabharata' has highlighted the practice of gambling at the time and the evils associated with it. Betting and gambling gives man a chance to earn disproportionate amount of money in a short time without labour, this fuels the dream of avarice of men. This lures a man away from an honest days work and has therefore been termed as an evil in the religious scriptures and is generally shunned upon by the society. The Times in the 1890's had put it as '[it] eats the heart out of honest labour. It produces an impression that life is governed by chance and not by laws'.

In India the most popular sport is cricket. If betting in cricket is taken under review specifically, It is estimated that about Rs. 720 Crores (150$ Million) is bet on an average One Day International anywhere in the world (1). The very rise of popularity of the sport can be attributed to betting in the sport, particularly during the 17TH century. The formulation of the rules and regulation of many of the modern games can be attributed to sports betting. This is particularly true for laws of cricket. The code of 1774 specifically mentioned:

'If Notches of one player are laid against another, the bet depends on both innings, unless otherwise specified. If one Party beats the other in one innings, the notches in the first innings shall determine the bet. But if the other party goes in a second time then the bet must be determined by the numbers on the score.' (2)

Therefore a question that comes to my mind is that since the popularity of the sport can essentially be derived from betting in the sport, is it prudent to now say, once the sport has become popular that betting is an evil and thus should not be a part of sport. This would take away one of the ingredients of the sport popularity. In this contribution the discussion will be limited to the legal position in India, especially pertaining duly to sports betting, specifically avoiding a discussion on moral codes, social view and religious beliefs.

Position of Sports betting in India

In India, the power to legislate has been divided between the Centre and the State. The Constitution of India through Article 246 and the Seventh Schedule, has divided the power of the Centre and the State in three Lists. The power to Legislate on matters listed in List I vests with the Centre (Central List), while the Power to Legislate on subjects enlisted in List II vests with the State (State List), List III known as the Concurrent List, consists of matters on which both the Centre and the State can legislate. Betting and gambling fall under the ambit of Entry 34 of the State List. Being a part of state list, it is the power of the state governments to regulate sports betting and gambling in India. Though, this has not always been the case. Pre-Independence before the existence of the Constitution and a clear division of power, betting and gambling were governed by a central legislation namely the Public Gambling Act 1867, which governed aspects of gambling in certain territories of India. After independence and coming of the Constitution various states have enacted their own laws pertaining to betting and gambling. The importance of the Public Gambling Act, 1867 though still remained since certain states adopted the Public Gambling Act to apply to their territory via Article 252 of the Constitution of India, which empowers the parliament to legislate for two or more states by consent and adoption of such legislation by any other state. By the Adoption of Laws Order, 1950 the jurisdiction of the Public Gambling Act was limited through the words 'Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh'. Thus the act applied only to these states with amendments promulgated hence forth.

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Sports Betting: Is It Really Illegal in India?


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