Online Betting in India – Why Indian Players need to Play at Licensed Operators

Online Betting in India
Online Betting in India

It is a well-known fact that India loves to bet on sports. The market size of the same has been growing exponentially by the year. Even though it is unregulated, untaxed, and largely underground, the gambling revenues are upwards of $130 billion as of 2018. That is a lot of moolah. However, its ungoverned nature has also led to unscrupulous consequences like money laundering, corruption in sports, and problematic gambling. Amidst this, it becomes quite critical to ensure that all of this betting activity occurs at licensed betting sites. Let’s explore why.

Need for Licensing Regimes for Gambling

Considering that in a country like India, where gambling can be regarded as more or less a unique economic activity, the need for having specialized norms around it becomes all the more crucial. But the fact that the Indian laws have not touched upon the subject in great detail yet (not to mention the ambiguity around it and its seemingly illegal status) means the onus is on the operators to do their part in protecting the consumers. This entails setting up the codes for responsible gambling, taxation, anti-money laundering procedures, payments, and maintaining overall sports integrity.

That said, without the positive intervention by the local governments and lawmakers, consumers still remain largely unprotected should things go sour for them. And while prohibiting the activity altogether (rather than taking steps to set up these licensing standards) seems like a decent short-term solution, it is not feasible in the long run.

A report by ENV Media on Gambling Licenses and Regulated Markets makes a fine point:

In such contexts, gambling prohibition has largely shown to be unfeasible in the long run. Complete liberalization, however, also comes along with a number of equivocal impacts on social and economic stability. While there are states on both ends of the spectrum, the role of a national-level stance on balancing these benefits and risks is beyond doubt. Regulating an existing social practice (that has an expression as a business demand) requires clear rules and protection mechanisms for all actors involved.

Some Precedents to Follow

It is also why the developed nations with mature markets have adopted clear, transparent regulatory practices for letting their citizens gamble online.

For instance, a majority of the countries in Europe feature a multi-licensing model for online gambling. In countries like Great Britain and Denmark, regulation is a massive part of the betting industry. Not only do these nations allow off-shore operators to offer their services in the country, but they ensure that they are carrying valid licenses and are in line with their regulatory norms and legislative practices – often governed by the respective gambling authorities of the own nation.

Similarly, the Netherlands also makes for a fine example. The Netherlands Gambling Authority (NGA) recently implemented the Remote Gambling Act, which essentially ensures that the Dutch residents play only at locally licensed betting sites, focusing on safe play and problem gambling support. Therefore, any off-shore operator that wants to operate in Holland – like Pure Win online betting – must first apply for a license from the NGA and meet its high standards about consumer protection.

The Way Forward for India

According to a European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) report, India’s emerging market ranks at the bottom when assessing the regulatory practices, taxation, integrity, and advertising around online betting. Nevertheless, off-shore operators and instant withdrawal betting sites continue to operate in India. While many of these are indeed licensed by reputed authorities such as the Malta Gaming Authority, UK Gambling Commission, and Curacao Gaming Control Board, there is no concurrent effort from the Indian authorities or its legislation cause for concern.

Indian bettors, should they find themselves in a precarious position with these online betting sites – or even fall prey to unlicensed operators – will not have any place to turn to for help or reprieve.

Considering the massive growth and underlying potential of this market in India, it may be prudent to establish a gambling authority in the country to oversee licensing activities, in addition to monitoring the operations, taxation, and functionality of these off-shore providers. Furthermore, this authority will also be responsible for setting up the code of conduct for all essential elements, notably protecting the interests of consumers and avoiding the pitfalls of problematic gambling and addiction. In other words, betting should be taxed and regulated in India for a win-win situation for all parties involved.