As several states update their laws regulating gambling websites and apps, legal experts weigh what this means for international platforms and whether the government can take action.
During the UEFA European Football Championship, Sony LIV, which streamed the tournament in India, partnered with Betway, a Malta-based online betting site. according to Afaqs. Betway is a sports betting app, and it is not the only one promoting its services in India, although sports betting and its advertising are banned in most states. Another major sports betting website that advertises on Indian sports livestreams is Dafabet, a website that does says subject to its terms and conditions that its applicable jurisdiction is limited to England and that users in prohibited betting countries should “note” the following:
“You irrevocably and unconditionally represent and warrant to the Company, without reservation or limitation, that you will not access or register an account at any time […] within any jurisdiction that prohibits access or use of the Website and / or the Services for any reason. “
This naturally begs the question of why Dafabet is promoting its services in India, where most states are banning its core activity (the company is promoting an associated brand, DafaNews, as a replacement advertising strategy). But is it legal for Indians to bet on since these sites are outside of India?
The focus is more on moderators
Seshank Shekar Rayaprolu, Counsel at LawNK, told The Ken that, similar to pornography, officials focus more on the people making the activity possible than on the end users or, in the case of betting apps, on the bettors. So what happens when the moderators are abroad? Sarthak Doshi, an attorney who works for Ikigai Law, told MediaNama that in many states the facilitation of gambling and wagering is done by regulated entities known as “joint gambling houses.” “Whether a foreign betting website is a” common playhouse “has yet to be examined by Indian courts,” said Doshi.
Read MediaNama’s Guide to Real Money Gambling Rules
“But it is questionable that they are not. A “shared playhouse” is defined (under most state gambling laws) as a house, walled enclosure, room, or location – all in relation to a physical location. Since foreign websites are completely digital, they can be said to be not a ‘common playhouse’ and accordingly a person playing on such websites is not illegal, ”he added.
However, this does not apply in states where websites and apps have been expressly included in their newly amended gambling and real money gaming laws, Doshi said. Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Nagaland, Sikkim and Meghalaya, Doshi said, have broadened their definition in this regard. The Uttar Pradesh State Legal Commission recommended a similar change to Prime Minister Yogi Adityanath.
You can read about the changes to the gambling / gambling laws of the above states here:
- Telangana on December 2, 2017 notified an amendment to the Gambling Act in the Telangana Gazette, which included cyberspace in the definition of gambling houses.
- Andhra Pradesh amended the same law (both states inherited the 1974 law) last year, prosecuting players.
- Tamil Nadu In 2020, a regulation was passed banning online betting, rummy and poker, with some exceptions for games of skill.
- Nagaland Introduced a licensing system for online skill games while updating its legislation to address online real money gambling rooms; the state welcomes real money games.
- Sikkim continuously since 2008 Updated its Gambling Act to regulate wager-based gambling, and like Nagaland, welcomes real money gambling.
- Meghalaya In March, an ordinance regulating and generating income from real money gambling activities was passed.
Can the government act?
The problem with regulating international betting sites is that the internet itself regulated by the central government, while gambling is regulated by the states. Hence, a single state cannot really block a faulty website or app within its borders. Andhra Pradesh tried. Last October, the state’s prime minister, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, wrote to then-IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asking for assistance in blocking access to real-money gaming websites that the state had just banned. These websites remain accessible according to to the New Indian Express.
As TNIE coverage shows, Reddy was nowhere near the first to try. An Avinash Mehrotra reportedly turned to the Delhi Supreme Court in 2019, demanding that such websites be blocked online. The union government attorney then reportedly said in an affidavit that the central government lacks the legislative powers to take action against an essentially state subject. Hence the standstill.
“The ambiguity in the application of state gambling laws on digital platforms / foreign websites is all the more a reason why India should pass a central gambling law that consistently addresses these problems,” argued Doshi. “And is better equipped to enforce the law on foreign websites.”