Could online betting ever be legalised in Maharashtra, and what positive and negative implications would this have for the state?
Currently, gambling is illegal in Maharashtra under the Maharashtra Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887.
This hundred year old gambling law restricts residents of Maharashtra to operate and frequent gambling houses. However, it does not make any mention as to the legality of online betting, which is a concept that didnâ€™t exist when the law was written.
Due to the gambling law not being amended in recent times, online betting sites can technically be used legally by residents of Maharastra, so long as these online betting sites are based outside of India. There is simply nothing written in the law which prevents people from doing so.
However, in spite of these legal loopholes, there are still many restrictions on online gambling in our state. For example, online betting sites are not allowed to be based in India and have no way of being licensed, taxed, and audited by the Indian or Maharashtrian authorities.
This provides a risk for Indian gamblers, who are at hazard of being consumed by problem gambling or debt.
It also leaves out a missed opportunity for the state to levy taxes on local gambling operators and to make sure these operators abide by a certain code of conduct, something that is currenrtly not being done.
So what if online betting was to be legalised. What would that mean for the great state of Maharashtra, and what implications, negative so well as positive, would it have for the people of the state?
More People Would Bet Online
If online betting was to be fully legalised in the state, one of the first things we would likely see is that more Maharashtrians would turn to online betting.
This is because most people are currently under the impression that betting is illegal in the state – which it is, if youâ€™re betting in a physical gambling den.
Many people are not aware of the loophole which currently exists that enables anyone to bet online with no legal repercussions.
So if betting was to be made officially legal, all the attention and media buzz surrounding the legalisation would, no doubt, increase the interest in online betting and catapult more people towards online betting sites.
Currently, even with a relatively low knowledge of online gambling, Maharastra is one of the biggest states for online betting in India. According to Tomesh Kulkarni, chief editor on MyBetting.in, Maharashtra is in the top 3 states in India when it comes to betting online.
In all likelihood, the popular penetration of online betting in Maharashtra would grow much larger if betting online was to be legalised.
Potential for New Businesses
With the legalisation of online betting comes the potential for new business opportunities.
If international and local online betting operators were allowed to set up operations and offices in Maharashtra, this would create countless new jobs.
International betting operators moving into the state means the influx of hundreds of skilled foreign workers and executives. These people need houses, food, cars, and all the things that make an economy go round.
In addition, the betting operators would hire hundreds of employees from the local population.
A legalisation would also boost many other associated businesses such as law firms, accounting firms, customer service, and others
New Taxation Opportunities
As online betting is legalised in Maharashtra, new tax funnels will also open up for the government.
Countries around the world with legal and regulated online betting have different ways to taxing the industry.
For example, in the UK, betting operators pay between 15-50% taxes to the government depending on the size of their profits.
In the northern European country of Denmark, betting operators are taxed at a flat rate of 20%.
And in a more unique example from the east African country of Kenya, it is not the operators that are taxed, but the players who are taxed on their winnings at a rate of 20%.
No matter which taxation model is chosen, there is no doubt that the legalisation of online gambling has the potential to be a very profitable undertaking for the state government of Maharashtra.
The income which is earned by the state of levying gambling taxes can be used to fund schools, build roads, hospitals, or other public utilities.
Increase in Problem Gamblers
When we look at the negative aspects of legalising online betting, there is no doubt that such a decision would also lead to an increase in people with excessive gambling issues.
Although the vast majority of people who bet online do so in a balanced and stable way which does not impact their personal lives or finances, there is always a segment of players who take things too far.
And when there are more people gambling, there will also naturally be an increase in gambling problems.
It is not like gambling problems donâ€™t exist now, even though gambling is technically illegal. We just donâ€™t hear about it. Itâ€™s a very taboo subject, because gambling is something thatâ€™s not really supposed to exist.
This also means that people who have gambling problems have nowhere to turn for help. If betting online was legalised, the state could establish a help-center such as BeGambleAware in the UK, in order to provide proper care and exit solutions for people with gambling addictions.
In conclusion, it is clear that legalising online betting in Maharashtra would have both positive and negative implications. Do the positives outweigh the negatives? Perhaps they do. But that remains up to the population and the politicians of Maharashtra to decide.
So far there is no concrete plan to legalise gambling in the state, but if a wave of gambling legalisations sweep over other Indian states, it is very likely that Maharastra, one of the most populous states in our nation, could be swept along.
Author: Tomesh Kulkarni