For many years, leading figures within the world of iGaming have predicted that the industry has a bright future in India. This is due largely to the fact that betting in all its various other guises is so popular throughout the country. With a population of well over one billion, India has the potential to become one of the biggest iGaming markets on the planet.
Sports betting and horse racing betting is exceptionally popular throughout India. There are several racecourses dotted throughout India and betting has been legally permitted by individual states, allowing bookmakers to operate on-course and off-course. The Law Commission also recently recommended that sports betting should be legalised and regulated, with the aim of attracting more foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country. State governments also have the ability to authorise lotteries, with federal law permitting up to one weekly draw.
There are two Indian states where land-based casino gaming is also legalised. Goa became the first region to permit the use of slot machines and dedicated establishments for table games. The Sikkim state government then followed suit, permitting the operation of two brick-and-mortar casinos within its borders.
All of this makes it all the more confusing as to why iGaming is such a grey area in India. It is rather like the mystery surrounding casino gaming in Canada. In Canada, no federal law exists that makes iGaming legal, but nor are there laws that explicitly prohibit it. Consequently, many Canada-based iGamers continue to play online blackjack and other games regardless due to the loopholes caused by the Canadian government’s lack of clarity. Many iGaming platforms offer free spins on video slots to entice players to sign up, while others offer such incentives on a monthly basis to retain them over the long-term.
I was lucky to read this LeoVegas review to discover that some iGaming operators available to Canada-based iGamers are offering as many as 222 free spins on selected slots. These promotions are steadily being ushered in for Indian iGamers too, as the industry seeks to become part of popular culture in India, just like it has in Canada.
The frustrating thing about the legalisation of iGaming in India is that the industry doesn’t even exist in the eyes of the nation’s legislation. The Information Technology Act of 2000 gives the government the ability to prosecute for numerous offences connected with activity online, but it makes no mention of iGaming. The act does permit the government to block access to websites located overseas and there have been instances of India-based iGamers being blocked from logging in to offshore iGaming and sports betting platforms.
What’s even more of a head-scratcher is that two individual Indian states have moved to introduce legislation surrounding iGaming. In Maharashtra, iGaming is now strictly illegal. However, in Sikkim, where land-based casinos are permitted, iGaming is now also legalised, with operators allowed to apply for licenses to operate to Sikkim-based iGamers.
The Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) 1999 was implemented by the Indian government on the eve of the Millennium to oversee the exchange of rupees into foreign currencies. It could be argued that Indian iGamers depositing anything other than rupees into an iGaming account could fall under the remit of the FEMA. That’s why many Indian iGamers choose to use e-wallets such as Skrill and Neteller to circumvent their banks and credit card providers and start enjoying the wealth of state-of-the-art video slots and table games on offer.