Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state in India where all forms of gambling are not legal. However, illegal betting rings continue to operate in the state while cricket betting, which is also illegal, is also popular with punters. Frequently changing state governments have not allowed any sort of legislation to decriminalize some forms of gambling.
For the most part, the state follows the Public Gambling Act, 1867 although the Act itself has provisions for the state to make its own modifications. However, the Central legislation does not have any direct impact on online gambling. The Act was amended in 1976 with stricter penalties for violation of the rules.
Unlike Goa and Sikkim, the state of Uttar Pradesh has not been as proactive when it comes to passing some form of legislation for different types of betting such as cricket betting, rummy, poker, horse racing, and lotteries, to name a few. In fact, it is one of the states to ban lotteries, which is otherwise a popular form of gambling in the country. Efforts were made back in 2005 to open a land based casino close to the monumental Taj Mahal. However, no progress has been made so far.
There is no dearth of enthusiasm when it comes to gambling, whether offline or online, in Uttar Pradesh. Its residents do have a penchant for betting on horse racing and cricket betting but have to resort to illegal gambling. Many believe that passing some form of legislation well put an end to the problem of illegal gambling in the state.
Horse racing enthusiasts and their respective clubs in many parts of the country received an impetus after the Honorable Supreme Court of India ruled that horse racing was a game of skill. The country’s highest court ruled that the game involved studying and judging the breed and form of the horse as a well as the jockey’s form and ability and other factors, and therefore is can be deemed a game of skill.
Thanks to the ruling, race courses in Mumbai and Pune in Maharashtra, Bangalore and Mysore in Karnataka, Delhi, Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh, Chennai in Tamil Nadu, and Kolkatta in West Bengal continue to operate successfully, adding plenty of funds to their respective state exchequers as well.
The horse racing industry is huge with thousands of horses in training, mares in breeding, and as many as 85 breeding establishments functioning. Unfortunately, Uttar Pradesh is left out of the race although off course betting is permitted at the Lucknow Racecourse.
The race course is located in the city’s cantonment area and boasts of a track over a mile long. There are several races held annually and includes the SAWACA Cup, Army Commander’s Cup, and MB Club Cup. The Lucknow Racecourse also offers course betting and live streaming of races held at race courses in Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, and Bangalore, to name a few. Off course betting in Lucknow is held over 260 days and generates around $20,000 in tax revenue for the state per year.
Still, players from India can bet on horses easily through the internet.
Any type of sports betting is shrouded in grey areas in India and the same holds good for the state of Uttar Pradesh. Currently, international cricket matches in the state are held at Green Park Stadium in Kanpur while an international cricket stadium is scheduled to be inaugurated some time in 2017.
Being the most populous state makes it pretty obvious that it also has the largest number of cricket enthusiasts, out of which there are many who love placing a few wagers. Betting on cricket is illegal and is punishable by law in the state in accordance with the Public Gambling Act, 1867.
Since cricket betting is punishable by law, it is not surprising to find regular raids and arrests in every nook and corner of the state. Betting on the IPL or Indian Premier League cricket matches played in the T20 format is most popular during the season and accounts for millions of dollars in illegal betting. There are frequent reports of arrests made during these matches.
However, there is no law currently that prohibits online betting on cricket. Many websites have links with offshore betting agencies that allow Indian residents to place online bets. Advisory sites like indiabet.com feature a list of bookmakers where Indian residents can place wagers and includes Ladbrokes, William Hill and Betfred, to name a few.
These websites allow punters to bet on a variety of products and the outcome of almost every ball in a cricket match, whether domestic or international.
Current loopholes in the Information Technology Act allow for online sports betting to be conducted without any fear of retribution. Many proponents of sports betting continue to argue that some form of legislation for both offshore and online sports betting is overdue in the country, and includes the state of Uttar Pradesh as well. This can not only add revenue for the state but also help improve the standard of sports facilities and infrastructure, and eliminate the billion dollar illegal betting racket.
Uttar Pradesh is among many states in India to ban lottery gaming despite the Public Gambling Act, 1867 legalizing this form of gambling in addition to horse racing. Unlike Sikkim, the state does not permit any form of lottery, which is why illegal lottery schemes continue to flourish. It is also unlikely that the new government at the center will bring about any changes to the Lotteries (Regulation) Act, 1998. In fact, the BJP government in power at the center has been instrumental in leading agitations to ban lotteries for over a decade. Any offence under this Act is cognizable and non-bailable.
A PIL or public interest litigation was filed in the Supreme Court by a resident of Uttar Pradesh in 2009 in the Supreme who claimed that the issue was serious and needed further scrutiny. The plaintiff, Mr. Satyavir Singh alleged that lotteries were being conducted indiscriminately and could potentially ruin many families. He claimed that states violated the Central Lotteries Act by conducting such lotteries. The Bench observed that the petitioner was right and sought a response from the Center on the plea to ban lotteries. This law that permitted state governments to ban lotteries of other states was challenged by agents in some states. In B R Enterprises vs State of Uttar Pradesh 1999 the Supreme Court upheld the law but also read down specific provisions. The court ruled that only states that prohibit their own lotteries could prevent entry of other state lotteries.
Uttar Pradesh traditionally has a large number of people who enjoy a wide range of card games that include rummy, poker, ‘teen patti’ (a game similar to flush), and flush, also known as ‘satta’ style games. However, there has been no move by the local UP government to legalize any form of gambling and allow casinos to operate in the state. As mentioned earlier, the only attempt made in 2005 to launch a land based casino was shelved.
In 2014, the Central Government left it up to the Supreme Court to decide if rummy and poker were to be considered as gambling. The games would be deemed illegal if they involve sheer luck and no skill. This was in response to a bunch of petitions filed by online rummy sites and clubs against the verdict of the Madras High Court in Director General of Police, Chennai v. Mahalakshmi Cultural
Association declared rummy illegal since the game was played for stakes which is a form of gambling. However, the Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh High Courts found that rummy was a game of skill and can be played on casinos and online.
Currently, the state of Uttar Pradesh has deemed all these forms of gambling as illegal.