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Legally illegal, but you can bet online in India

Betting or gambling is illegal in most of India. But there is no law that makes online betting an illegal activity. Somshuvra Laha reports.
By Somshuvra Laha | Hindustan Times, Kolkata
UPDATED ON MAY 21, 2012 01:07 AM IST

Betting or gambling is illegal in most of India. But there is no law that makes online betting an illegal activity. Offshore betting companies are apparently using this ‘loophole’ to lure Indians to bet on pretty much everything. The Indian Premier League (IPL) tops their lists now and some websites have even hooked up with offshore betting agencies, thereby allowing Indians to place online bets.

One of the advisory websites, indiabet.com, claims they don't take bets but help get in touch with international online bookmakers.

"To bet on IPL games with real money, all you have to do is click on the link of the bookmaker you want to use. You then can sign up with the bookmaker by opening an
account

with them. Then go to the cricket section of their website, where they will list all the IPL games that you can bet on. There you can choose which matches to bet on,” says indiabet.com.

Free run

Not only matches, you can bet on possibly every aspect of an IPL match, from the toss to how the bowlers will fare and the odds on a batsman scoring a hundred.

The website also suggests the names of online betting agencies such as William Hill, bet365, Ladbrokes and Betfair for placing bets. It also has a video on how to open an online account at one of the betting agencies. To pre-empt possible legal hassles, the website clearly mentions how and why it facilitates online betting.

“The question of whether it is legal to bet from India using an international bookmaker is not clear in law. While bookmakers in India are illegal, there is no specific law in India which bans an individual customer from placing an online bet with a bookmaker based outside India,” the website says.

All these agencies, according to indiabet.com, accept online betting accounts with Indian address. It even goes on to say that bet365, one of the largest betting agencies in the United Kingdom, will ‘accept bets from customers in every state of India’.

No response William Hill didn’t respond to HT’s mail at the weekend, asking whether it was aware of betting laws in India.

“According to the Public Gambling Act (1867), all kinds of gambling in India are illegal,” said Vikrant Pachnanda, a Delhi high court advocate and managing editor of India Law Journal, a periodical that expresses views on topical legal issues.

“But unlike in the US where there is the American Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, no specific laws exist in the Indian system that bar online gambling,” said Pachnanda.

It also becomes difficult to catch internet gambling offenders if the websites are hosted by servers located in countries where betting is legal. “Enforcing the act becomes difficult if the servers are located offshore,” said Pachnanda.

“On 4 March 2009, the Government of Sikkim (Finance, Revenue and Expenditure Department) issued a memorandum known as Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Rules, 2009. This outlines the rules and regulations for online gambling licensing within that state.

“However, if an Indian resident decides to place bets on a website hosted outside the country, it would be difficult to hold him guilty of online gambling if the laws of the country where the website is hosted, permits online gambling,” he said.

“This is why India should enact a specific internet gambling law.”

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