Online Gambling – The Soaring Rise From the Global Economic Crisis

During these tough economic times, it is no surprise that land based casinos are losing money. You may have thought that people would be flocking to sportsbooks and casinos worldwide in order to gamble and hopefully win big as an aid to surviving the recession that the economic crisis has spawned.

However, it seems that the opposite is true. The lack of money for entertainment means that folks are foregoing those weekend trips to Las Vegas and other gambling meccas. They have even become unwilling to spend the money required for gasoline or public transportation in order to get to land based casinos that are within driving distance of their homes. You could ask any sports book or casino owner how the recession has treated their business, and most of them will tell you that they are losing money.

Experts in the gambling industry have observed a ripple effect taking place across the world. Determining the patterns of international gambling is the subject of a study that has released some surprising facts about the gambling industry. Online gambling is rising in popularity in spite of the economic crisis. In fact, in 2008, the total amount taken in worldwide by online gambling was more than 20 billion dollars, setting a new high record.

Why are people shying away from land-based casinos and using online casinos instead? Simply put, they can make their money go much further in an online casino. As mentioned above, people just do not want to part with their cash for airfare or for any other form of transportation in order to get to the casinos. They are using that money to go to online casinos, and having their gambling fun in the comfort of their homes.

The gambling industry is predicting that online gambling will continue to be quite popular for as long as the economic crisis goes on, and even beyond. People are not going to give up gambling. They may not wager as large an amount as they once did, but the lure of winning is too strong for them to stop completely. They will turn to online casinos as a way to continue their gambling habit for less money.

All that is needed for online gambling is a computer and an inexpensive broadband connection to the Internet. Anywhere you can use a laptop computer or a mobile phone is also a place where you can gamble. Unlike land-based casinos, online gambling allows you to practice many of the most popular games at no charge. You can get a feel for a game before investing any money in it, which can save money in the long run.

Those punters who are smokers and have seen their favourite casino or sports book turn into a smoke-free establishment are also bringing their gambling dollars to the online casinos. Gambling via the Internet means no restrictions on smoking, food or drink. There is no dress code to follow, and many consider online casinos much safer than land based casinos. Several of the big online casinos are responding to this influx of new customers by making online gambling even more fun and appealing. They are adding welcome bonuses and other promotions, holding tournaments, and featuring player customizable slot machines. Almost everything you can find at a land-based casino is available at online casinos, plus a whole lot more.

Online gambling is very convenient, offers a huge variety of games to tantalize the punter, and suits the entertainment budgets of those who are affected by the economic crisis. There is no doubt that the gambling industry is right on the threshold of even more growth as it grows more popular than ever.

Online Gambling

Internet Casinos Inc. (ICI), the world’s first online casino, started operating from August 18, 1995, with 18 different games. Since then more than 1,400 websites, mostly domiciled in small Caribbean islands, have given rise to an industry that grosses over $3 billion a year. In fact no business on the Internet earns more revenue than online gambling. Out of the estimated 14.5 million online gamblers, almost 30 per cent are from Asia.

A bet can be placed in minutes. Anyone with a credit card can set up an offshore currency account with a gambling site, leaving them free to place bets on sporting events like Wimbledon, cricket, horse racing and Formula One, or join a virtual casino to play slot machines, roulette, blackjack, poker etc. Companies like Flutter and Betmart accept bets on anything from who is going to win the Nobel Prize to whether Madonna is getting a divorce or not. Bets can range from a nickel to thousands of dollars and according to whether you win or lose the amount is automatically adjusted to your account. The final balance can then either be mailed to you or left for future bets.

The law relating to online gambling in India needs to be understood within the country’s socio-cultural context. At the outset, gambling, although not absolutely prohibited in India, does not receive express encouragement by policy makers. The Indian organized gambling industry is estimated to be worth around US$8 billion. While stringent laws have checked the proliferation of casinos and high street gaming centres as in many other countries, barring the state of Goa, the lottery business remains the most post popular form of gambling.

Though gambling is not illegal, it is a highly controlled and regulated activity. Modern India is a quasi-federal Constitutional democracy and the powers to legislate are distributed at the federal as well as the state levels. Gambling features in List II of the Constitution of India, this implies that the state governments have the authority to enact laws in order to regulate gambling in the respective states. Thus, there is no single law governing gambling in the entire country. Different states have different laws governing gambling in addition to the laws that have an application across the country. While some states have banned lotteries, other states allow state government lotteries marketed and distributed in other lottery playing and promoting states through private entities.

Regulation of gambling

The courts have defined gambling as ‘the payment of a price for a chance to win a prize’. The dominant element of skill or chance shall determine the nature of the game. A game may be deemed to be gambling if the element of chance or luck predominates in deciding its outcome. As a result, Indian courts have held that betting on horse racing and a few card games are not gambling. The right to undertake the business of gambling and lotteries is not considered as a fundamental right protected by the Constitution of India. It may however be pointed out that the state government run lotteries make significant contributions to the state exchequer of several state governments and the Union government, and hence there is a resistance to complete prohibition.

The following legislation is pertinent to gambling:

The Public Gaming Act, 1867

This Act provides punishment for public gambling and for keeping of a ‘common gaming house’. This Act also authorises the state governments to enact laws to regulate public gambling in their respective jurisdictions. The penal legislations in respective states have been amended in accordance with their policy on gambling. However, this legislation does not have any direct impact on online gambling unless a wide interpretation is given to the definition of common gaming house so as to include virtual forums as well.

The Indian Contract Act, 1872 (ICA)

The ICA is a codified umbrella legislation that governs all commercial contracts in India. Under the ICA, a wagering contract is the one which cannot be enforced. The Act lays down; ‘Agreements by way of wager are void, and no suit shall be brought for recovering anything alleged to be won on any wager or entrusted to any person to abide by the result of any game or other uncertain event on which any wager is made’. Gambling, lottery and prize games have held to be wagering contracts and thus void and unenforceable. While a wagering contract is not illegal, it cannot be enforced in a court of law. Thus, the courts will not entertain any cause of action that arises out of a wagering contract.

Lotteries (Regulation) Act, 1998

This Act provides a framework for organizing lotteries in the country. Under this Act, the state governments have been authorized to promote as well as prohibit lotteries within their territorial jurisdiction. This Act also provides for the manner in which the lotteries are to be conducted and prescribes punishment in case of breach of its provision. Lotteries not authorized by the state have been made an offence under the Indian Penal Code. Several non-lottery playing states, like Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, have prohibited the sale of other state-government lotteries under this Act.

Indian Penal Code, 1860

Section 294A deals with keeping lottery office. It says that whoever keeps any office or place for the purpose of drawing any lottery not being a State lottery or a lottery authorised by the State Government, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.

And whoever publishes any proposal to pay any sum, or to deliver any goods, or to do or forbear doing anything for the benefit of any person, on any event or contingency relative or applicable to the drawing of any ticket, lot, number or figure in any such lottery, shall be punished with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees.

Internet gambling

The law related to gambling is also applicable to online gambling. All gambling contracts are considered to be wagering contracts and it is not possible to enforce such contracts under the ICA, detailed above.

As pointed out earlier, the online lottery is the most popular form of internet gambling in India. Most companies marketing and distributing or conducting state government-sponsored lotteries through the internet are not allowed to sell their services in the states that banned lotteries. In most cases, these marketers and distributors limit their online services to consumers who are residents of the states where a lottery is permissible. Notwithstanding the fact there has been no reported case of breach by any company promoting online lotteries, most of these companies (as a safeguard) seek an undertaking from their consumers relating to their residence.

There have been instances where one state has banned the lottery of other states, including online lotteries. In a recent case, the Karnatka High Court upheld the decision of the Karnataka government to make itself a ‘lottery free zone’ by imposing a ban on lotteries of all other states, including online lotteries under the Lotteries (Regulation) Act 1998. The state government, in this case, directed the closure of the terminals and kiosks selling the online lotteries.

Enforcement over foreign jurisdictions

If the websites are hosted and operated from outside India, it may be difficult for the Indian authorities to issue any directive to close them down or prohibit their access without using its blocking powers under the ITA. The authorities have little to worry about, as Indian foreign exchange laws do not permit remittances outside India for gambling related activity, such as the purchase of lottery tickets, football pools and sweepstakes. As a result, a gambling website hosted outside India aiming at receiving money from within India cannot do so through legal channels.