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Andhra Pradesh Betting Laws and Industry

casino laws at andra pradesh India

Andhra Pradesh is the fourth largest Indian state in India that until recently included Hyderabad, one of the most popular cities in the country, known as much for horseracing as it is for its global IT prowess.

Gambling in Andhra is governed by the Andhra Pradesh Gaming Act of 1974 [1] and is for the most part illegal in the state except for betting on lotteries, horse racing and rummy, which are legal. There are also provisions for tote and pool betting.

While there are gambling laws in India [2], gambling in the state is wide spread with touts and agents booked frequently. What is notable is that the fines and penalties are not significantly large while only repeat offenders find themselves serving jail time.

The state earns a significant amount in taxes from betting products such as horse racing, which runs into thousands of dollars a year.

According to one report  in the  thehansindia.com, some of Hyderabad’s clubs rake as much as $17,000 per day through gambling. Andhra Pradesh is said to top the list in gambling cases with over 260,000 cases recorded between 2007 and 2012, as per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

Almost everyone from the middle class citizen to the affluent try their hand at gambling whether it is considered illegal or legal under the Gaming Act of 1974 [3]. Hundreds of thousands of dollars also change hands in betting on cockfights and games like teen-patti or 3 Card Indian Flash. Gambling dens seem to exist throughout the city of Hyderabad and even in smaller towns and cities across Andhra Pradesh. Police claim that are large number of people involved in gambling included city jewelers with outlets in many affluent areas of the city.

Recently the Government of Andhra Pradesh released its Gaming, Animation, Media & Entertainment Policy 2015-2019 [4] which mentions that the gaming industry was constrained by several factors such as the lack of infrastructure for animation studios and lack of proper motivators, which were to be addressed by the introduction of the new policy with the objective to make the state the most favored destination for investment in gaming. The policy proposes the setting up of an animation and gaming city with creation of a suitable venture capital funding system.

Primary Gaming Laws

India’s gambling laws, which includes online gambling have still many undefined, grey boundaries.

The only central legislation is the Public Gambling Act, 1867 [5] while different states regulate gambling under their separate state laws. Andhra Pradesh, as mentioned earlier, goes by the Andhra Pradesh Gaming Act of 1974 where gambling is typically defined as the act of wagering or betting for money with restrictions and in most cases, prohibition of use of land based premises for gambling and making any profits or gains.

It is interesting to note that no person has been prosecuted under the archaic Public Gambling Act of 1867 which was framed during British rule in India, which makes operating a gambling house a crime.   Under the Public Gambling Act, 1867, it is not necessary to prove that any individual found playing at a gaming house was playing for money, wager or stake, in order to convict the person.

Under the Act, anyone found at a gaming house shall be fined $1.50 or imprisoned for up to a month under the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).

For the most part, most gaming laws are outdated and do not cover online gaming in any comprehensive way. Many e-commerce laws are still in their infancy with regulations on gambling sites still patchy. The Public Gambling Act, 1867, states that nothing within it applies to games of mere skill.

An attempt to bring the country in line with the times was made through the 2011 Federal Information Technology Act [6]. This was predominantly an attempt to stem the flow of overseas betting sites permitting Indian citizens to wager online. Part of the law made it mandatory for India’s ISPs to block a host of online gambling sites that offered real-money games. However, numerous Indians continue to enjoy playing their favorite casino and poker games online every day, including those in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Horse Race Betting in Andhra Pradesh

Horse racing laws at Andra Pradesh India

Andhra Pradesh is among the few states to take a liberal approach to gambling and horse racing in particular.   The ‘Sport of Kings’ aka horse racing is one of the favorite pass times in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Punters are always more than willing to test their luck at the racing tracks that includes the Hyderabad Racecourse in Malakpet.

The racecourse run by the Hyderabad Race Club (HRC) plays host to some of the most elite races in the country that includes derbies and the Invitation Cup, one of the most prestigious races in the country.

Thoroughbred horse racing has a long history in the state dating back to 1868.

Races are held in the monsoon and runs from July through October, which culminates in the Deccan Derby. This race sees the top class 3 year olds battle it out every year. Winter races are held between November and February and include several prestigious races including the Nizam’s Gold Cup and President of India Gold Cup.

The Hyderabad High Court advised the state government to bring horse races and betting under a new tax legislation to prevent revenue leakage. The judges pointed out that horse racing and betting was governed by the archaic horse racing and betting tax regulations of 1358 [7] framed by the Hyderabad state in 1358 Fasli. Therefore, the state needed to seriously consider revamping the laws to plug loopholes in the regulations.

Currently there are several OCTC or Off-Course Tote Centers of the Hyderabad Race club in many cities that include Hyderabad, Secunderabad, Visakhapatnam, Kurnool, and Vijayawada, to name a few. As many as 16 OCTC have been licensed to sell computerized totalizer tickets for the benefit of punters.

With a portion of Andhra Pradesh now split into a new state called Telangana, Hyderabad is now part of this new state. Meanwhile, every effort is being made to make the ‘city of destiny’ Vishakhapatnam (Vizag) the new hub of horse racing [8]. According to racing experts, the city has the infrastructure and weather suitable for horses to stay fit and healthy. Tote centers have already been set up in Vizag, Guntur, Kurnool, and other cities.

Currently there are around 22 licensed horse trainers at the HRC with 729 horses under their charge. Over 50 jockeys are licensed to ride at Hyderabad while the club also has the requisite permission to conduct inter-venue betting on Delhi races.

Online gambling on horse racing remains illegal in the state although there are many loopholes. Punters can only wager on a horse race where there is a racecourse.

Betting Cricket and Other Sports

Sports and cricket betting laws in andra Pradesh India

While horse racing may enjoy a prime position when it comes to betting with thousands of dollars in tax revenues collected by state government, betting on cricket and other sports are still taboo all across the country.

Illegal bookmakers thrive when it comes to gambling in cricket with millions of dollars changing hands during any cricket match, which includes the IPL or Indian Premier League, which has been the focus of a large match fixing scam in recent times.

It is not uncommon to find news reports of bookies in Andhra Pradesh busted for accepting bets on cricket. Many of these involve big wigs where there is big money at stake.

Today, small kiosks called ‘paan shops’ that sell cigarettes have now become the hub for betting on cricket matches in Andhra Pradesh. The only criterion for being able to place a wager is an introduction by a regular. There are allegedly over 30 such shops in Hyderabad alone.

Under the Andhra Pradesh Gaming Act of 1974 [9], betting on cricket is not permissible. However, betting still thrives with wagers being placed on every ball bowled in a cricket match. Million dollar cricket betting rackets are busted on a regular basis.

Earlier, the names of four players from Sun Risers Hyderabad also surfaced in the IPL matching fixing scandal although a senior crime branch officer later confirmed that none of those four players were finally named as accused in the charge sheet. Iin 2013, Indian ministers that included the then union law minister, Kapil Sibal, to push for the central government to draw up legislation that would make match fixing a criminal offence.

Overall, sports betting remain illegal in the state although the high profile cases of match fixing in cricket has led to many people calling for regulation of sports betting to save the face of the most treasured and followed national game of cricket. With an ever increasing number of internet-savvy middle class people in India with disposable cash, there is potential to earn billions of dollars in tax revenues from a state like Andhra Pradesh alone.

Apart from cricket betting, cock fights are most popular in East and West Godavari. Betting is a tradition in these places, which is why many people are pushing for the state to become a betting hub. There may be a large police force at festivals where there are cock fights but they in most cases ignore any betting going on.

According to a Wikipedia entry, the CEO of the International Cricket Council (ICC) was in favor of sports betting being legalized. His views are supported by a majority in India who also feel that the introduction of regulated gambling will stop money being used to fund terrorism and disintegrate the mafia that controls illegal betting.

Any hopes of online gambling on sports like cricket were struck down with the passing of the Information Technology Act 2000 [10] in May 2011, which covered gambling sites. ISPs were held responsible for blocking offshore betting sites although there were and are many techno legal loopholes.

Casinos in Andhra Pradesh

Casino and skill game laws at andra Pradesh India

Reports suggest that casino culture is slowly making its way into Andhra Pradesh although there could be still some time before some form of legislation is passed.

Most ministers view this as an opportunity to earn solid revenue for the state and would like to follow the Goa and Sikkim model. Casino and poker enthusiasts may be able to wager on their favorite games at a world class gaming facility in Vizag if the chief minister can get through political hurdles by opposition parties.

The state government has taken the initiative to sign a MOU with UK’s Eros Investments Limited with the objective of launching a multibillion dollar gaming center in Vizag.

The government plans to set up a $300 million entertainment center in the first phase. Several Goa-based casino management firms have expressed their interest in set up casinos in cities like Vizag.   The faster the venture will be able to cut through the red tape, bureaucracy and opposition from various organizations, the better it will be for the state to enjoy revenue and of course, its millions of residents gain access to world class casino gaming.

The launch of a cruise casino off Vizag’s shores is also on the anvil which will allow casino lovers to gamble on the high seas. Genting Group’s ‘Cruises to Nowhere’ may be the first to enter Vizag’s waters. What casino operators are looking at is Vizag’s potential as a tourist spot, which could attract a large number of people from Malaysia and other countries, giving Europe a skip. The coastal city could give Goa a run for its money with its small shacks and makeshift beer bars that serve liquor adding to the ambience.

Lottery in Andhra Pradesh

The state run lottery within Andhra Pradesh was doing well until it was banned. However, the cash strapped state is now looking at reviving the state-run Bhagyalakshmi lottery, which could be a significant source of revenue, as much as $20 billion or more annually.

Playwin was one of the popular lotteries in the state until Crime Investigation Department of Andhra Pradesh Police sought to ban the website. The Andhra Pradesh State Human Rights Commission directed the Chief Secretary to ban the website in the state for allegedly selling online lotteries banned in the state. Subsequently state CID requested the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), to block operations of the website. The Andhra Pradesh Lotteries Act, 1968, declares all lotteries in the state as illegal. Based on this Playwin was banned from operating in the state[11].

In the case of Sanjay Jayantilal & Co. And … vs Government Of Andhra Pradesh, … on 15 March, 1999,. the Andhra Pradesh High Court ruled that the petitions were not entitled under Section 3 of the A.P. Lotteries Act to continue their business of selling lottery tickets in the State of Andhra Pradesh. The court observed that the State Government could not be compelled to violate any provision of the law.

Flush, Rummy, Poker and other Card Games

Andhra Pradesh is one of the few states to rule that poker is a game of skill. The Supreme Court also ruled in the case of State of Andhra Pradesh v. K. Satyanarayana and others (1968 AIR 825 1968 SCR (2) 387) that Rummy was not entirely a game of chance and required a certain amount of skill since cards had to be memorized while building up Rummy also required skills.

The court observed that Rummy was primarily a game of skill. In this case it is worthy to note that the Supreme Court made an observation that

“[I]f there is evidence of gambling in some way or that the owner of the house or the club is making a profit or gain from the game of Rummy or any other game played for stakes, the offence may be brought home.”

Almost 50 years on while rummy clubs thrived in the state, the Andhra Pradesh High Court refused to grant interim relief to rummy clubs such as Chiraan Fort club that offers real money games. The court’s decision was based on a matter of whether rummy could be played for stakes which was pending before the Supreme Court. The judge observed that the issue of legality needs to be examined in detail.

The refusal to grant interim relief came a petition by the management of Chiraan Fort that was forced to close down by the police. The club claims that the forceful closure was illegal with its legal team citing the decision of the Supreme Court in State of Andhra Pradesh v. K. Satyanarayana. Notably, the Andhra Pradesh High Court had ruled in two cases, D Krishna Kumar v. State of Andhra Pradesh (2002) and Cinema Cultural Centre, Jubilee Hills v. Commissioner of Police (2002), that playing rummy for real money stakes is not illegal in the state. However, the case in the Madras High Court, Director General of Police v. Mahalakshmi Cultural Association prompted the Andhra Pradesh High Court to refrain from granting interim relief to Chiraan Fort.

Andhra Pradesh is yet to enact a law that permits online gaming and sports betting [12]. In fact, Sikkim is the only state to have taken the first step towards legalization of online gambling. For the most part, there is no conclusive decision yet on the legality of poker in the state. The liability of running online poker rooms are solely dependent on the Gaming Acts. In the absence of a specific law, it is not likely that online poker fans in Andhra Pradesh, as like other states, will be penalized. So far, the only possibility is   an order to block IP addresses. Ongoing cases in the Supreme Court and Delhi High Court are likely to impact how poker is perceived in the state.

Should the Supreme Court side with the rummy clubs it could well open a window of opportunities for games of skill like poker to be legalized. Andhra Pradesh is undoubtedly watching the Sikkim model closely, which is one of the most liberal states when it comes to gambling. What we could see is something similar to the United States where other states are monitoring the progress of states like Nevada and New Jersey who have opened their doors to online gambling in some form.

Gambling Laws Reference in this Article

[1] [3] [6] [9] lawnotes.in, Andhra Pradesh Gaming Act, 1974

[2]  onlinebetting.in, Indian Gambling Laws, 2015

[4]  mondaq.com,  Online Gaming And Gambling Laws In India, 2014

[5] indiankanoon.org, India Gambling Law, 1867

[7]  sportsbetting.net.in,  Betting in India by State, 2015

[8]  deccanchronicle.com,  Andhra Pradesh Plans New Gaming Venues, 2015

[10]  aponline.gov.in, Andra Pradesh Gaming, Animation, Media & Entretaiment Policy 2014-2019, 2014

[12] newindianexpress.com, AP Seeks Ban on ‘Playwin’ Online Lottery. 2014

[13]  gaminglawmasters.com,  Are Your “Bets” On The Indian Market Legally Sound?, 2014

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