This article is written by Dev Agarwal, a student of Heritage Law College


Gambling in India is governed by the Public Gambling Act, 1867 but all the State Governments  do possess power of making their own respective legislations regarding this matter. The word “Gambling” has been defined nowhere in the Act. The meaning of the word is ‘play games of chance for money’. Thus, this legislation prohibits any such games of chance for money in other words, this legislation prohibits betting of any sort. Interestingly, games which require any kind of skill are excluded from the ambit of this Act. It must be noted that Public Gambling Act, 1867 is a central legislation and it is up to the State Governments if they want to adopt this legislation or make their own laws regarding gambling. Sikkim and Goa till date remain the only two states which have legalized gambling through legislations.


Section 12 of the Public Gambling Act, 1867 says that “Nothing in the foregoing provisions of this Act contained shall be held to apply to any game of mere skill wherever played”. To understand this very section, we need to understand the difference between games of skill and games of chance. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in R.K Lakshman v. State of Tamil Nadu defined games of skills as “one in which the success of a player depends principally upon the superior knowledge, training, attention, experience and adroitness of the player” The Supreme Court in the same case also stated that horse racing too is a game of skill and not a game of chance and elucidated the same and came to the conclusion that even betting in a horse race is done keeping a lot of factors in mind like skills, management of the jockey.

On the other hand, game of chance can be defined as those games in which there is a chance of gaining some money and the games which are solely played for the sake of gaining some money. There are certain exceptions to games of chance which includes-


Lotteries are generally excluded from the ambit of this and various other state legislations. The Indian Parliament in 1998 legalized the lotteries pan India by enacting the Lotteries Act, 1998. The legislation aimed to regulate the lotteries in India. The Act empowered the State Governments to organize a lottery of its own, subjected to certain procedure. The Revenue Department of every State Government is given the responsibility to conduct the lottery. The State Governments through its agents (generally private companies) operates and promotes the lottery in the state and other states. The States which organize its own lottery are – Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Nagaland, Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala and Punjab.

2. Horse Racing

Earlier horse racing was included in the ambit of Public Gambling Act, 1867. It was only in the year 1996 when horse racing was excluded from the same. In India, horse racing is generally conducted by six recognized turf clubs which are :-

  1. The Royal Calcutta Turf Club
  2. The Madras Race Club
  3. The Royal Western India Turf Club Limited
  4. The Bangalore Turf Club Limited
  5. The Delhi Race Club
  6. The Hyderabad Race Club

The Race clubs and Turfs are given license to conduct horse racing by their respective state governments. These Turfs and Race Clubs are responsible for framing rules regarding horse racing as well as enforcing them.

3. Prize Competitions

The Prize Competitions, even though is a game of chance but is legalized by Prize Competitions Act, 1955. Any person who has obtained license from the State Government to conduct such competition can conduct one. The only condition which needs to be fulfilled is that the maximum prize awarded does not exceed Rs. 1000 and there are not more than 2000 entries.


In India, the only state which has legalized online gambling is Sikkim. The Government of Sikkim passed the Sikkim Online Gaming Act, 2008 which aimed to regulate online gaming through electronic and non electronic modes as well as impose tax on such gaming. The Act was later amended in 2015 which changed the jurisdiction of online gaming and limited it to the geographical borders of the State of Sikkim.

It must be noted that there is no such legislation which regulates or imposed ban on online gambling in India. In the absence of any such legislation the Information Technology Act 2000 becomes of prime importance as it can help the Government to keep a check on online gaming by intermediary compliances and cyber law due diligence.


Gambling Laws have a very confusing outlook in India. The Courts time and again have tried to interpret and come up with a precedent which is good for public at large. With the use of internet, a lot of offshore gambling activities have also started happening and since there is no such legislation which prohibits or regulates the same, offshore gambling can be used as a method to launder money, which may have serious repercussions on the economy as well as safety of India. Thus, a proper legislation which helps in bringing clarity in the gambling laws regime of India is the need of the hour.



  1. A Walk Through The Gambling Laws In India, MONDAQ, https://www.mondaq.com/india/gaming/617478/a-walk-through-the-gambling-laws-in-india
  2. Dr. R. K. Lakshmanan v. State of Tamil Nadu [AIR 1996 SC 1153]
  3. In a nutshell: gambling law in India, Lexology, https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=e169cba8-9acc-406d-a434-8e83b39967ae#:~:text=After%20the%20Constitution%20of%20India,its%20own%20act%20on%20gambling.&text=A%20perception%20exists%20worldwide%20that,However%2C%20this%20is%20not%20true.
  4. The Public Gambling Act 1867