The Indian state of Chhattisgarh has legalised land-based and online skill gaming with stakes, becoming the third jurisdiction in the nation to codify online gambling after the state of Meghalaya withdrew its gaming law.
The Chhattisgarh Gambling (Prohibition) Act 2022 came into force last Thursday (March 23) after receiving assent from Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan on March 15.
The act had been passed by the landlocked central-eastern state's unicameral legislative assembly on January 4.
The largely punitive legislation imposes severe penalties on gamblers, individual and corporate gambling organisers, as well as on accessories who provide bank accounts or similar means to transfer gambling funds.
But a terse article in the act exempts all skill gaming with stakes, making the state of 30m people the largest so far to legalise online skill gaming.
“Nothing in the foregoing provisions of this act shall … be held to apply to any game played for mere skill but shall only apply to games of … chance and luck,” Article 15 states, therefore legalising skill gaming with stakes in the state for the first time since the 19th century.
The legislation also exempts lotteries, but does not name exempted individual skill games — likely rummy, poker and other card games — instead making do with a definition of “game of skill” as one “predominantly determined by the knowledge, training, expertise and experience of the participant”.
More generally, the act bans land-based and online wagering or betting, imposing jail terms of up to six months and fines for individual gamblers.
Gambling hosts will be jailed between six months and three years for a first offence, and between two and five years for subsequent offences, while others who aid or abet in a third party’s online gambling will be jailed between one and three years for a first offence and between two and seven years for subsequent offences.
Additionally, anyone who provides a bank or other account for others’ gambling can be jailed for six months.
The law also criminalises individuals in companies that break the law and can jail directors and others who are proven to be complicit in illegal activity.
All non-skill gaming advertising is banned and up to three years in jail await violators.
The Chhattisgarh Gambling (Prohibition) Act 2022 repeals the colonial-era Public Gambling Act 1867.
Meanwhile, Meghalaya state, which had briefly pioneered the most liberal online gaming regime in India, on Tuesday (March 28) repealed its gaming legislation, completing the government’s policy reversal last year after suffering a political and popular backlash.
Only three states — Sikkim, Nagaland and now Chhattisgarh — offer legal online skill gaming with stakes; however, there is significant potential for the expansion of online gaming across India.
The Supreme Court, for whom skill gaming is legal and established constitutional law, is set to hear a combined appeal from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and possibly Telangana states to overturn state High Court rulings defending the online gaming industry.
The central government has broadly aligned with industry and is set to issue formal, streamlined online gaming rules and regulatory structures that state and Union Territory governments may choose to adopt.