Undeterred by bans, the rise of new online casinos continues

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NEW DELHI — Last month, several States and provinces reversed their laws on gambling to ban real money games online, citing gambling addictions that result in suicide as the main reason to regulate this industry. Despite these bans, the popularity of online casinos continues to soar throughout the country.

Last year, statisticians discovered that 40 per cent of India’s Internet users have spent real money at online casinos, and many are regular users. Games like slots, rummy, and online poker are the main attractions at these online casinos that are mostly based throughout Europe. Gambling has always been a popular hobby throughout the country, with plenty of citizens that love betting on card games, cricket, and horse racing.

Unfortunately, India’s laws have not changed with the times – the main gambling law was written in the late 1800s, and bans gambling in person, but has not been amended to add regulations to the booming Internet industry. The federal government has left it up to States to decide on their own gambling laws, and only a few have taken on the task of regulating betting. Goa, Daman, and Sikkim all allow betting, while Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have outrightly banned it. Most other States are left in a middle ground.

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Kerala is one of those States. Though the Kerala Gaming Act of 1960 bans in-person betting, Internet casino companies operate through a loophole.

Last year, a ban in Kerala was set in motion when film director Pauly Vadakkan filed an online petition to ban online gambling games for real money, particularly rummy. His argument was that a ban should be put into place until there can be regulations that address scams, legality, and gambling addictions. He warned that illegitimate websites were using false promotions to lure in customers and criticised other celebrities that have signed on as ambassadors endorsing casino brands that attract “unsuspecting people” to sign up.

There have been cases where individuals have lost large sums of money online, and as a result, killed themselves because of depression and anxiety issues that stem from financial woes. Vaddakan’s petition became popular quickly and was heard by the Kerala high court, which decided to institute a ban on rummy and other activities in February 2021.

Despite this recent ban, the online casino industry is booming throughout India, with hobbyists finding ways around local laws to continue playing. Laws have not stopped the world’s biggest casino brands from expanding into India and offering a huge variety of games, which is why it is so popular. Only since the beginning of March 2021, there are three newly launched brands for the Indian audience.

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The recent shutdown from the pandemic has led to an even bigger surge in popularity, with individuals stuck at home looking for something to do online. Legitimate casinos from other countries do hold licences and are overseen by governing bodies, thus holding them to certain fairness and privacy standards – meaning that individuals in India feel safe playing, despite State laws and petitions that denounce the act.

With plenty of players, reviewers, and ways to find safe and new casinos in India, we can expect that local governments will soon begin the process of researching and regulating the industry to ensure that it stays safe, as it is clear that despite bans, online gambling is a hobby that is here to stay.

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