Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state in India. It is also a state where all forms of gambling are illegal, yet freely available. Illegal betting rings continue to operate in the state, with cricket betting being especially popular with punters. Yet the frequently changing state governments have not allowed any sort of legislation to decriminalize any form 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. The Act was amended in 1976 with stricter penalties for violation of the rules. However, the Central legislation does not have any direct impact on online gambling.
Unlike Goa and Sikkim, the state of Uttar Pradesh has not been as proactive when it comes to passing new legislation for different types of betting. 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 will 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, racecourses in Mumbai and Pune in Maharashtra, Bangalore and Mysore in Karnataka, Delhi, Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh, Chennai in Tamil Nadu, and Kolkata 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, as it does not have a historically significant racing body, Uttar Pradesh is not the biggest market for horse betting.
Horse racing is conducted at the Lucknow Race Course, but only a handful of races are held each year. The racecourse is located in the city’s cantonment area and boasts of a track over a mile long. The races held annually include the SAWACA Cup, Army Commander’s Cup, and MB Club Cup.
But more importantly, off-course betting is permitted at the Lucknow Racecourse. Punters can bet on major races held at other courses like Mumbai and Bangalore, using online betting at these counters Live streaming of these races are also held. This facility is available 210 days of the year and generates around $20,000 in tax revenue for the state per year.
Punters who do not wish to visit the racecourse or those who want horse betting action 365 days of the year have another option – online betting sites. Uttar Pradesh does not have any strict laws against online betting. It is fully safe for players to log in and bet online on races from around the world.
Any type of sports betting in India is shrouded in a legal grey area. The same holds good for the state of Uttar Pradesh as well. Currently, international cricket matches in the state are held at Green Park Stadium in Kanpur and the Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Cricket Stadium established in Lucknow in 2017.
Being the most populous state makes it pretty obvious that it also has the largest number of cricket enthusiasts It also stands to reason that there are many among those fans 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 will 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. It has a state low, the Uttar Pradesh Unauthorised Lottery (Prevention) Act of 1995, which makes it illegal for any private individual or business to run lotteries.
Though states like Sikkim and Kerala run state lotteries, these are also not permitted in Uttar Pradesh. In fact, 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 centre will bring about any changes to the Lotteries (Regulation) Act, 1998. In fact, the BJP government, which is in power at the centre and the state, 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 a verdict of the Madras High Court.
In the case Director General of Police, Chennai v. Mahalakshmi Cultural Association, the High Court 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. And in 2015, the Supreme Court declared that Madras High Court ruling void, as the original accused Association was acquitted by the trial court in the original case that did not even mention rummy anywhere.
As of now, rummy is indeed considered a game of skill by the Supreme Court. It is legal to play in India, but if high stakes are involved, then police and the authorities have the freedom to prosecute. Currently, the state of Uttar Pradesh has deemed all these forms of gambling as illegal.