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The legal position of gambling in Northeast India

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The Indian subcontinent as a whole, has had a long history with gaming. Historians have discovered dices of sandstone and terracotta that date back to 3300 BC and they have also found evidence which state that the civilians of the Indus Valley engaged in betting and gambling. Even ancient Indian mythologies have made a reference to gaming somewhere or the other.

Under the British rule, the practice of games which required skill were allowed by the British government. However, the practice of gambling in India Indian gambling was governed by the Indian Gambling Act of 1857. This act deemed public gambling and maintaining common gaming houses as unlawful. But, the practice and conduct of lotteries and horse racing were highly legal.

After India became an independent nation in 1947 and after the enactment of the constitution in 1950, a lot of new rules were brought in and a number of old rules were demolished.

The Constitution of India entrusts the power to make laws relating to lotteries with the Parliament of India, as stated in Entry40, List1 of the Constitution.

However, the same Constitution of India entrusts the States with the power to enact state-specific laws on betting and gambling. While a number of States have adopted the rules under the Public Gambling Act of 1867, a number of other States have enacted their own laws on gambling for their respectives states.

The northeastern states, like every other Indian State, have their own individual gambling laws. While the State of Assam in the northeast sees gambling as an offence, the States of Nagaland and Sikkim have legalised land-based casinos and online gambling.

Gaming market in India

In India, the gaming industry is found to be worth 60 billion dollars. But remember, this includes both regulated as well as unregulated gaming. The Indian gaming industry can be categorised into six headings- lotteries, prize competitions, horse racing, sports betting, games of skill and games of chance. While most of the gambling games come under the last category, many of the gambling games have been made legal in India assuming them to be under the game of skill category.

The mindset around gambling in India

A lot of gambling is seen as a game of chance in India. Game of chance involves every other game which is based on luck. One does not need any specific knowledge base for these kinds of games and are thus different from games of skill. These games of chance are considered illegal in India.

However, if any amount of skill, understanding or knowledge is required by a particular gambling game, it might not be considered illegal in the country. Therefore, the gambling games are subject to a lot of bias in the Indian subcontinent.

Legal laws revolving gambling in various northeastern states

  • The practice and conducting of lotteries in any of the eight northeastern states-Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Sikkim, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Tripura- is legal and does not account to any offence.
  • Online gambling and even land-based casinos are completely legalized in the northeastern state of Sikkim.
  • Like in Sikkim, online casino India or offline casinos on land are permitted in the northeastern state of Nagaland as well. These were legalized under the Public Gambling Act of 1976.
  • While two of the northeastern states have legalized online casinos in India, the State of Tripura bans the maintenance of gambling houses publicly or privately along with the practice of gambling in any form.
  • Assam, like Tripura, sees gambling as an offence and does not tolerate such acts.
  • In 2012, the State of Arunachal Pradesh introduced the Arunachal Pradesh Gambling(Prohibition) Act, in order to prohibit and provide punishment for “ public gambling and keeping of common gaming houses in the State of Arunachal Pradesh.”
  • E-gaming of games of chance has been permitted by law in Sikkim as well as Nagaland.
  • Manipur follows the Public Gambling Act, 1867 and therefore provides for “the punishment of public gambling and the keeping of common gaming house.”
  • The State of Mizoram also abides by the provisions of the Public Gambling Act of 1867, as stated by the Public Gambling(Extension to Mizo district)Act, 1962.
  • Meghalaya passed the Meghalaya Regulation of Gaming Ordinance in February 2021 to become the third Northeastern state to regulate gambling and gaming under a license-based regime.

These laws have been formulated by experts and are subject to changes in the modern world. While many people believe that gambling should not be made legal, there are a major number of supporters for the legalization of gambling. Moreover, the prevalence of online casinos around the world has made a huge impact on gambling practices. With popular support and changing mindsets, we are very likely to see an assuage of laws around gambling in various States in the region.

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