There was a nerve-jangling revelation for casino operators in India earlier in September when it was revealed that Andhra Pradesh – the seventh largest state in the country with nearly 50 million inhabitants – have outlawed all forms of online gambling.
Ministers unanimously agreed to amend the existing Gaming Act (1974) in order to evoke the new legislation, which will prohibit online casino gaming and sports betting.
And rather than just playing lip service to the idea, the Minister of Transport Perni Venkataramaiah revealed how serious the state would be taking the new ruling when announcing anyone caught playing or offering online gambling could be thrown in jail.
The punishments stated by governors include:
- Players could be imprisoned for up to six months
- Operators could be jailed for a year for their first offence
- Repeat offenders could be imprisoned for two years and fined
Curiously, online casino sites and other betting apps have NOT been banned – governors have not banned any websites or apps in the state; aside from those made by Chinese firms, many of which have been prohibited due to allegations of data breaches.
However, if you are caught playing such games, or found to be ‘organising’ them to quote Venkataramaiah, jail time could follow.
The Minister of Transport said the measures had been introduced to protect the state’s sizable population of young adults, with the ultimate aim of reducing the numbers of problem gamblers in major cities such as Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada.
The move shouldn’t have come as a surprise given that the president of Andhra Pradesh, Somu Veeraju, had tweeted earlier in the year that he hoped to see a complete ban on online gambling. Perhaps more troubling for operators is that he is a prominent figure in the Bharatiya Janata Party, the ruling government of India. Could a ban be introduced in other states too?
All the Facts and Figures about Andhra Pradesh
With nearly 50 million people in Andhra Pradesh, clearly there is a huge captive audience for online casinos and gambling operators – in their target group of males aged 21-30, there is a potential customer base of more than eight million people according to the latest figures.
Andhra Pradesh is the seventh largest Indian state in terms of economic performance too, and so clearly there is a considerable captive audience that is being protected from online gambling.
State governors have a certain amount of influence in national politics too, with Andhra Pradesh represented with eleven seats in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house in the Parliament of India, and 25 seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower house.
And that influence could be significant in shaping India’s regulatory future….
Could Online Gambling Be Banned in More Indian States?
The legal framework governing online gambling is so bizarre in India – it’s not considered an illegal activity, even if domestic operators can be prosecuted – that who can really say what’s around the corner.
But what is interesting about the Andhra Pradesh case is that governors were willing to modify the Gaming Act – a piece of legislation that has been around for more than 40 years – in order to get their changes into law.
Many critics of online gambling in India believe that the current legislation is not fit for purpose as it doesn’t reflect the digital lifestyles of many young Indians – indeed, the Public Gambling Act dates back to 1867!
The matter is complicated by the fact that offshore companies, whose servers are located overseas, are free to operate in India without fear of prosecution.
As things stand, each of the 29 provinces of India has the autonomy to make their own legislative framework as far as online gambling is concerned, with the only law governing the whole of India is the ‘public gambling houses’ are banned full stop.
And while no other state leaders have yet to stick their head over the parapet, you do wonder if more will look to follow the lead set by Andhra Pradesh in the coming months and years.