Should gambling be legalised ? : Important Topics for UPSC Exams


Should gambling be legalised ? : Important Topics for UPSC Exams


Gambling is ubiquitous in Indian society: people bet on animal fights on streets, they make bets while playing cards and before cricket matches. As the Irish philosopher Edmund Burke correctly said, “Gambling is a principle inherent in human nature.” While societal attitudes towards gambling have changed in the last century, with gambling now seen as a legitimate form of recreation, Indian laws have not kept pace with the times.

Why in News?

  • In 2016, while examining the Lodha Committee recommendations on legalising betting in sport, the Supreme Court wanted the Law Commission to examine whether betting on cricket should be legalised and a law framed to enable that and the Law Commission is yet to make its final recommendations, but going by news reports, the Chairman of the Law Commission, Justice B.S. Chauhan, has gone on record saying that he is in favour of a law to regulate such activities.

  • Chairman of the Law Commission, invited views and suggestions, from all those concerned, to arrive at a judicious opinion and make suitable suggestions and recommendations to the government and the report is awaited.

Laws Dealing with Gambling in India

  • The first attempt to control gambling was made in 1867 with the Public Gambling Act which provided for punishment for public gambling and keeping of common gaming houses. Section 2 of the Act authorised each territory (now each State) to extend the Act to the State.

  • The Bombay Prevention of Gambling Act came into force in 1887. Gaming as defined in the Act includes gaming and betting.

  • Constitution has enabled the State Govt to formulate their own laws and there exist no uniformity among the state laws and mostly deal with Physical Gambling while Online gambling remains out of the scope.  

  • Section 67 of the Information Technology Act of 2000 vaguely deals with Online Gambling which prohibits online transmission and publication of material which “corrupt” persons.

  • From the various provisions of the Central and State Act, one can infer that while gambling is prohibited in public or public gaming houses, there is no prohibition on such activities in a private house.

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Gambling VS Betting

  • Generally, gambling is referred to as card games where high stakes are involved and betting is referred to as casino games and putting a bet on an event such as a match.  

Analysis

  • Although gambling and betting is a State subject, the primary law on which States have framed their gambling legislation is an archaic, British-era law called the Public Gambling Act, 1867 and ironically, while India follows a British-era prohibitionist statute, the U.K. legalised and regulated various forms of gambling and betting many decades ago.

  • The Law Commission of India’s endeavour to study the issue of whether or not gambling and betting should be legalised in the country is therefore a timely initiative to start the process of a much-needed reform.

Why legalise gambling?

  • Gambling is already happening in a massive way and Law enforcement authorities are not able to stop it.

  • Gambling and betting is mostly done surreptitiously, and is said to be controlled by underworld syndicates who use the unaccounted money earned from gambling activities for nefarious activities like terror financing, having failed to control illegal betting, which happens on a large scale and also deprives the state of a huge revenue earning opportunity, the only recourse left is to legalise, regulate and tax the resultant income.

  • Legalising the activity will not only help curtail an important source of black money that is used by criminal syndicates, but also bring massive revenue to the state exchequer, which can be used for various constructive social schemes.

  • Estimates about the size of the gambling market in India vary, with a 2010 KPMG report suggesting that it could be $60 billion, while other, more recent, studies peg the value at a higher number. Even a conservative estimate suggests that the government could earn tens of thousands of crores as tax revenue by legalising sports betting. Additionally, if online gambling and casinos are also permitted, the estimated tax revenue would be much higher.

  • In addition to revenue generation, a legal and regulated gambling sector will also help in creating large-scale employment opportunities. Globally, wherever gambling is regulated, it has created a massive avenue for employment generation. For instance, the regulated gambling industry in the U.S. employs over 2.5 lakh people, while over 1 lakh individuals are employed in this sector in the U.K.

  • Gambling has been prevalent in society since ancient times and has been accepted as a form of recreation on various social occasions, the concerns about gambling and betting leading to addiction and bankruptcy, it must be noted that even though gambling is largely illegal, it is still rampant and unchecked. There are numerous instances of people losing their livelihoods and committing suicide due to unchecked gambling even today, with authorities turning a blind eye to the problem.

  • Previously, Lodha Committee also recommended that Betting should be legalised.

Some Notable Judgements

  • The legality of various activities which involve betting like horse races and card games have come up before the Supreme Court and In K.R. Lakshmanan vs State of Tamil Nadu case, the court concluded that horse racing was a game of skill rather than chance and further in State of Andhra Pradesh vs K. Satyanarayana & Ors, the court held that rummy is a game of skill and not entirely based on chance.

Why Gambling should not be Legalised?

  • Gambling is not morally correct in the Indian context and it is responsible for addiction, loss of livelihoods and bankruptcy.

  • There is no guarantee that legalising betting will generate revenue as projected, when radical steps like demonetisation and giving more power to tax authorities have not been able to make any significant change in revenue inflows or in curbing black money.

  • Arguing legalising the betting since we are not able to control it, is like arguing that we are not able to control road accidents due to drunken driving, so we should consider legalising drunken driving and impose large fines to generate revenue.

  • It can’t be said that practise of Gambling is inherent in human nature since it has been criticised in Ancient Mythological scriptures like Mahabharata and a large section of the population, particularly women, oppose gambling not only from an ethical point of view but also because it invariably leads to moral and monetary bankruptcy.

  • There are apprehensions that companies may exploit uneducated and under privileged poor people to try their luck in gambling, with the help of betting apps or other means, these people in turn may lose their hard-earned money and may further increase the incidents of suicide etc which are limited in extent at present. Since, currently people who invest their hard-earned money are very less and betting is mostly restricted to the people who have stocks of black money.

  • There can be no guarantee that legalising regulated betting will stop players from being a part of betting rackets.

Challenges in Legalising the Gambling

  • The existing law in the field of Gambling was passed before the Constitution came into existence and it was a Central legislation. If Parliament wishes to legislate on the subject, it will be difficult to do so, as the subject of gambling figures in the State List and as a result, the Constitution will have to amended first so that gambling can figure in the Concurrent List.

  • Necessary infrastructure like police machinery, prosecutors, etc. will have to be put in place.

Issues associated with Online Gambling

  • There has been a steep rise in online gambling of late and governments are trying to find ways of curbing the menace, the problem of online gaming cannot be curbed by merely amending the Information Technology Act where it finds a mention.

  • Online Gambling has created menace and introduced almost a parallel economy which paradoxically turn the Legally earned money into Black Money.

  • There will still be the issue of jurisdiction as online gambling goes way beyond India’s borders.

  • Ensuring that online gambling is safe and protects the interests and rights of players is difficult job.

Way Forward

  • A robust regulatory framework governing the gaming sector will ensure that people do not fall prey to the excesses of gambling.

  • Awareness campaigns should educate people about the risks of excessive gambling; minors, habitual gamblers and vulnerable sections should be excluded from having access to gaming facilities; and limits must be imposed on the amounts that can be wagered, based on a person’s financial capabilities.

MODEL QUESTIONS

Q. Which of the following statement is correct about Gambling/ Betting in India?

A. Public Gambling Act, 1867 does not deal with Gambling in India.

B. Section 67 of the Information Technology Act,2000 directly/ indirectly deals with gambling.  

C. Gambling is in Union List in India.

D. Lodha Committee recommended Betting not to be legalised.

Answer-B

Q. “Gambling is a principle inherent in human nature”. Analyse the statement in context of India?

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