Indian gambling startups flourish despite legal restrictions

New Delhi, 25-01-2020:

A new wave of entrepreneurs is entering the online space to give Indian gamblers a place to play.

Slowly but steadily, gambling is becoming more and more acceptable in India. While people often gamble as a part of the tradition, there have been many restrictions placed upon the activity due to the Public Gambling Act, 1867. But one part of the gambling space has escaped mostly unscathed from regulation, and that is online gambling. Now, many entrepreneurs are taking the freedom afforded by the internet and using it to set up their own gambling startups.

Licensed gambling brings in revenue for the state, while ensuring that all players are protected.

Indian gambling startups currently focus primarily on card games like Poker and Rummy. These games are not resource-intensive, making it easier for smaller startups to build and run websites catering to these players. Another avenue of gambling is betting on fantasy sports, wherein players can build teams of their favourite players, and win money based on the performance of the individual players or the team as a whole. Since betting on fantasy sports is a game of skill, it does not fall afoul of the restrictive gambling laws, while still offering the same thrill.

As more options for gambling open up, it is becoming clear that India is becoming more gambling-friendly. This is due to the following reasons:

  • Changing Legal Restrictions – While the Public Gambling Act of 1867 is the main force against gambling, it does have some notable lacunae. Indian gambling startups are taking full advantage of the fact that online gambling is mostly unrestricted, and are bringing Indian sensibilities to the sites they are starting. For example, Pure Casino is an Indian-owned gambling site with headquarters in Curacao, while still operating with a heavy focus on the Indian market. Also, since gambling is a great source of revenue for governments when taxed, it is to the government’s benefit to allow it in more forms.
  • Indian Market Opening Up – Thanks to the previous reasons, the Indian market is opening up, and many changes are coming in. On the one hand, most gambling startups in India are like Head Digital Works Pvt. Ltd, who run Ace2Three or Games24x7, who run RummyCircle – they mainly provide games that the Indian public is interested in, while not trying to attract a large international audience. On the other hand, you have sites like Bodog India which are foreign-owned but appeal exclusively to Indian players. In this way, more businesses are moving into the Indian gambling space, driving growth and increasing popularity.
  • IPL Betting – One of the major factors that has helped Indian gambling startups grow is the Indian Premier League. IPL Fantasy betting is regarded as a game of skill rather than chance, and therefore, is exempt from the current gambling laws. Also, the sheer public goodwill that the IPL has generated has gone a long way towards making gambling socially acceptable, which makes it easier to legalise it, should the opportunity arise.

Where are most gambling companies headquartered?

Most gambling companies are headquartered in places where the tax code allows them to operate without problems. Some of the countries which allow casinos and other gambling enterprises to operate unhindered are Malta, Gibraltar, Curacao and the Isle of Man.

As you can see, legal restrictions are no match for the intelligent, dedicated entrepreneurs who are building their startups in this space. From Malta to Curacao, Indian gambling startups are reaching new heights, helped along by the increasing number of people who are dipping their toes into gambling.