History of Gambling in India

Shiva Parvati Playing Dice

Last month I visited Vegas with a friend, it goes without saying that it is the gambling capital of the world. I am not a gambling man, however I was amazed at the efficiency of the casinos despite their huge scale of operation. They bring in over $10 billion in revenue and 40 million visitors every year. Gambling in South Asia has always had a chequered past. Last week Pakistan Cricket chief selector Moin Khan was called back from the world cup for just dining in a Casio. These incidents made me curious and I did some research about gambling and gambling laws in India.

The complexity of gambling laws in India perplexes the minds of the common folk due to certain grey areas. While there are particular kinds of betting that are strictly prohibited in the country, there isn’t a fine line drawn between what is permitted and what is explicitly illegal. Funnily enough, gambling is still a popular pastime, and the earliest forms of betting have even been traced back to ancient Indian civilizations.

Rakesh Wadhwa says that Hindu mythologies dating as far back as 2000 BC have used gambling as a strategy to build alliances, bridge gaps during conflict. Other claim that the first forms of this practice can be traced back to as early as 7300 BC in the Ramayana, though the first external reference of it wasn’t until 430 BC. The use of gambling boards and the game of chess had appeared in this epic a few times, evidently with no negative nor positive attitudes surrounding their mention. However, betting and gambling was deemed problematic later on in the Mahabharata, where “Shakuni arrange a dice game against Yudhishtira and cheated him out of his wealth and kingdom,” and later gambling loved ones into servitude.

Up until the Public Gambling Act of 1867, betting had not been outlawed. Any associations with a casino or gambling devices would make citizens subject to crime. As time passed, the government displayed some leniency, allowing skill games that relied more on the degree of skill, even if the game still was based on chance. Currently, the lottery is legal in select states, and legal casino gambling is permissible in two states, Goa and Sikkim. These limitations have deterred some from gambling, but with the creation of world’s first online casino InterCasino, the whole gambling landscape got changed, it became impossible to keep Indians and South Asians away from making the occasional bet on their favorite games on a new, but legal platform.

Today in India there are 15 legal casinos across 8 cities. Panaji has 3, with a total of 77 table games and 120 video machines for poker, slots, and others. Find out more about India’s casinos on World Casino Directory.