Posted on: June 24, 2020 Posted by: Sumedh Kamble Comments: 0
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“You know horses are smarter than people. You never heard of a horse going broke betting on people” 

                                                                                                                                                                                Will Rogers

Rightly identified by several thinkers and activists, gambling has been a menace not for the society alone, but the individuals as well. People have been risking their entire property and lives of their family members as well, in the world of gambling. It used to be one of the most celebrated acts, and successfully sustaining its existence till now. Be it the epic Mahabharat or the famous Greyhound trainer from Britain, this pleasurable-yet-devastating addiction has led to severe results, on the unwanted side. It also provided references to the writings of thinkers like Manu and Kautilya who were completely against the act of gambling. Apart from the moral aspect of thinkers and philosophers, even the judicial system has been deciding against the idea of keeping everything at stake, solely relying on the luck. In the case of Reeja vs The State of Kerala, the apex court recognized the ill and anti-social effects of gambling. However, there was a lack of a proper legal framework to control the abovesaid issue.

Before talking about the legal framework, it is imperative to read about the prominent types of gambling-

  • Underground lottery:  It is very common for Indian households to engage themselves in this type of gambling. Here, a lottery ticket with a number printed on it is bought and when the results are declared if the ‘winner number’ declared is printed on your lottery you are considered to have won that lottery.  These pure luck and chance-based lotteries are popular among the backward classes of the society. The Lotteries (Regulation) Act, 1998, governs these types of lotteries and doesn’t hold lotteries illegal but it restricted the lottery draws to one draw per week. But this hasn’t been followed in most of the states and lotteries are even conducted on an hourly basis as well.

Addiction towards lotteries is the main reason for concern. Luck factor plays a huge role in this process and a person who does not win for the first time continues to buy the lottery tickets in the hope of hitting that one ‘big jackpot’. This drains the customer’s hard-earned finances and pushes them into monetary problems.

  • Sports Gambling: Sports gambling became a lucrative source of money-making in India. Gambling and betting on Cricket have a long and dark past. The customers place huge bets on various aspects of the game like the result of the whole match or performance of a particular player.  Match-fixing, which is an illegal practice, is a part of gambling where the bookies attempt to persuade a particular player or a team to perform at their convenience and as per their will.

Match-fixing is totally against societal conventions. Connoisseurs of sports watch the matches with total commitment and loyalty. However, match fixing results into the contamination of the sport and its very fundamental values.

  • Horse Racing: Betting on horse racing is considered to be an esteemed and also a prominent activity.  In the case Dr. K.R. Lakshmanan vs State Of Tamil Nadu And Anr, the Supreme Court ruled that betting on horse racing does not come under the purview of gambling as it is a game of skill and thus, horse racing was made legal in India in 1996.

The court said that winning of a horse is based on many factors like the training of the horse as well as the jockey, pedigree of the horse, type of race, condition of the running field and various other factors but not on luck and chance.

In furtherance to this, it becomes of vital importance to segregate the games on the basis of their legality with respect to the concept of gambling. In India, the games/acts are differentiated on the basis of skill and luck and games of skill are not punishable under the Indian laws as mentioned under Section 12 of the Gambling Act. While on one side, betting on a football match or boxing match is completely on the luck of the person placing bets, games like rummy on the other side are more of a matter of skills. The act of building up the game, handling the cards, and calculating the probability of the presence of desired cards in the set requires analytical skills and hence cannot be placed under the ambit of games purely on luck. However, in the case of Subba Rao vs the king, Patna high court held that the gambling or card games played on an informal basis, such as in houses during Diwali won’t be brought under the purview of the law. In addition to this, the act of betting on horse races has witnessed an ambiguous situation. While several cases and laws prohibit such acts as it is considered to be a game of luck ( as the result is independent of the person placing a bet), the case of R.K Lakshman vs State of Tamil Nadu held it to be a game of skill since it involves an aspect of evaluative skills and management of jockey.

On the parallel side, there happens to be a vague situation when we talk about lotteries. The digression as discussed previously on the frequency of lotteries by most states happens due to the different sets of laws in each of the states that govern the above said matter of gambling. In furtherance of different state legislatures, there has also been a conflict between the states and central government’s set of rules, as an effect of certain provisions in the Constitution. This discretionary power given to the states to regulate gambling and lotteries themselves also weakens the intention behind drafting Section 294(A) of IPC, that prohibits any lottery (except the ones authorized by states) to carry out their business. But on an international level, Foreign Exchange Management (Current account transaction) Rules impose restrictions on the transactions from offshore in the amount won by lottery, betting on racing and riding, etc.

While talking about the advance rules regulating the world of Luck, one shall not forget mentioning the basic yet prevalent provision of Indian Contracts Act, 1872, that is Section 30. According to this, a wagering contract is void-ab-initio and no action will be sustainable against such a contract in the court of law. To understand the meaning of wager and if gambling comes under its ambit or not, it is imperative to refer the judgment of Carlill vs Carbolic Smokeball Co.which held wager as a contract by two individuals having opposing interests based on some future uncertain event (with the mutual chance of winning or losing), where the parties have no other interest apart from the sum involved in the contract. However, due to the above discussion on the ‘State vs Centre’ conflict (which is a potent yet elusive loophole), the specific legislation governing the act of gambling supersede any other set of rules. Hence, for better and efficient regulation, there have to be some developments for the above said conflict, which comes under the discretion of the central government.

In recent times, India has been quite strict in regulating the spot-fixing in cricket matches and efficiently prosecuted the criminals. The recent incidents include the match-fixing incident in IPL between Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings. Both the teams were suspended for a span of two years and the offenders were sentenced to prison, which included some cricketers like Ajith Chandila and Ankeet Chavan. But the same has not been demonstrated in the cases of online betting in sports, including cricket as well. There are no exhaustive set of laws to regulate the said issue. Hence, this loophole is being used by bookies extensively because most people are now connected to the internet and other telephonic services. Here, the existing regulations along with the earliest of them, that is the Public Gambling Act, 1867 prove to be inefficient in dealing with the modern challenges. Therefore, in the wake of the growing influence of the digital era, there exists a need for a proper set of regulations covering each aspect while considering the recent technological developments. Alongside this, it is high time to consider that there is also a need for educating people about the ill-effects of this addiction, which is the best road to avarice. It has been aptly said that-

The safe way to double your money is to fold it over once and put in your pocket”

Kin Hubbard

Sumedh Kamble

2nd Year BALLB Student at ILS Law College, Pune

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