Game Laws: Definition and Meaning

The study "Legal Framework: Gambling and Sports Betting, including in Cricket in India" was published by the Law Commission of India. However, the study outlined several kind and sensible steps to address specific business challenges if the Central Government or State Governments did contemplate regulating them. The government is taking the report into consideration.

The All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), a self-regulatory organisation for online skill games, has written to India's Prime Minister, requesting that the Enforcement Directorate investigate and take an appropriate action against offshore betting websites that are illegally selling services to Indian individuals and receiving bets from Indian citizens, in violation of the Information Technology Act, 2000 ("IT Act") and the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999. ("FEMA").

What does the Game Law define?

The body of laws governing the gaming or gambling sector is known as game law. Game law is not a legal discipline in the classic sense; rather, it is a combination of various legal disciplines, including criminal law, regulatory law, constitutional law, administrative law, corporate law, contract law, and, in some countries, competition law. Gambling is defined by the common law as involving consideration, chance, and a prize.

Laws Applicable to Gaming (Including Games of Betting and Gambling) In India

Every Indian citizen is granted the right to practice any profession and to engage in any occupation, trade, or business under Article 19(1)(g) of the Indian Constitution. Every profession, trade, or enterprise that is regarded as lawful is innately granted this freedom. According to Entries 34 and 62 of List II (State List) of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, "betting and gaming" and the taxation thereof are state matters, however there are some significant central regulations on the topic.

The Indian Contract Act, 1872 (Contract Act)

According to Section 23 of the Contract Act, "the consideration or goal of an agreement is legitimate, unless it is banned by law; or is of such a kind that, if granted, it would contradict the requirements of any legislation." A wagering agreement is also "void and unenforceable," according to Section 30 of the Contract Act. The fact that such agreements are not explicitly prohibited by law does not make them "illegal" when they are entered into, and no legal action can be taken to enforce them.

Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA)

The Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), along with Rule 3 and Schedule 1 of the Foreign Exchange Management (Current Account Transaction) Rules, 2000, forbids the remittance of money from events including lottery prizes, racing, and sweepstakes.

The Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy forbids both "Foreign Direct Investment" and "investment by a person living outside of India" in companies that operate "lotteries, including online lotteries, gaming, and betting, including casinos." The same applies to any kind of foreign technological partnership used for gaming or betting operations.

The Public Gambling Act, 1867 (PGA)

The PGA is based on the British Gaming Act of 1845 and the Betting Act of 1853. Betting agreements became voidable and the Unlawful Games Act of 1541 was repealed by the British Gaming Act of 1845 and the Betting Act of 1853. The main reasons for enacting the PGA were to outlaw both open gambling and the operating of common gaming establishments. It is expressly stated in Section 12 of the PGA that games of purely intellectual talent are exempt from the prohibitions therein.

The States are given the authority by the Constitution to enact laws governing "gambling and betting." Due to this constitutional framework, no central legislation on the matter may be passed unless the Parliament does so by using the authority granted to it by Articles 249 or 250 of the Constitution, as applicable, or by using the authority granted by Article 252 of the Constitution.

The Public Gambling Act ceased to be Central Legislation as a result, and as a result, it was no longer a law that was applicable to the entire territory of India. Instead, the States in India were given the sole authority to enact laws on "betting and gambling" as well as laws concerning their taxation. It may only still be considered applicable under the existing system if it is voluntarily embraced by State legislatures.

Jurisprudence on Gaming in India

According to the Supreme Court of India and different High Courts in India, it is generally accepted that in order to determine whether a game is a game of skill, the following criteria must be established:

  • A game should need significant skill, which is defined as the existence of talent to a significant degree;

  • The player's superior knowledge, training, focus, experience, and dexterity should be the primary determinants of success in such a game;

  • Greater training and experience in this type of game should give the player a deeper understanding of winning tactics as well as the dynamics and operational limitations of the game. These skills should also have a significant impact on producing a successful winning outcome that is in the player's favor.


Most gaming laws define "gambling" or "gaming" as "the act of wagering or betting" for money or something of value in money. However, generally speaking, "gambling" or "gaming" does not include the following under most gaming legislation:

  • Wagering on or placing a bet on a horse race or a dog race, provided that such wagering or betting occurs under specific conditions, and

  • Lotteries.

Offences of Gambling

The Gaming Enactments define a number of gaming and gambling-related offenses. Except in Assam and Orissa, where gambling activity may be a criminal infraction regardless of the medium or place where it is given, the majority of offenses and bans relate to "game house" or "common gaming house."

Penalties for Unlawful Gambling

While fines and/or imprisonment are generally prescribed by gaming legislation, the amount of any fine and the length of any jail may vary from state to state.

The Public Gambling Act of 1867 charges a fine of Rs. 200 or a period of imprisonment of not more than three months for owning, maintaining, or having control of a gaming establishment, and a fine of Rs. 100 or a term of imprisonment of one month for being discovered in a gaming establishment.


India is a huge country, and as each state has the authority to enact laws pertaining to itself, they have all adopted various methods for the gaming law. The definitions of what constitutes a game of skill and what constitutes a game of chance are interpreted differently by Indian courts. Online gambling is now illegal in India, but the legislation is still in its infancy. There are no additional national or state laws pertaining to this, with the exception of the State of Nagaland, which specifically enables internet gambling across India, provided a license is obtained.

If one can demonstrate that a particular game involves significant skill, necessitates strategies and experience, and is not merely a game of chance in accordance with the principles of fair play, one should be able to legally operate online gaming platforms, subject to compliance with applicable laws and regulations, in the absence of a comprehensive law or common understanding on the matter.


Q1. What were the English game laws?

Ans. Richard II enacted the first game-qualifying legislation in 1389. It specified that keeping greyhounds, hounds, other hunting dogs, and any other hunting equipment was prohibited for anybody without estates or tenements worth at least 40 shillings per year or clergy earning less than £10 per year.

Q2. When was the first gaming act passed?

Ans. The Game Act 1831 was enacted by the British Parliament to safeguard game birds by defining a closed season during which they could not be legally captured. The Act also mandated the designation of gamekeepers and the requirement for game licenses.

Q3. What were the Game Laws of 1816?

Ans. Pheasant, partridge, hare, and rabbit hunting were only permitted for landowners under the Game Laws of 1816. Poaching was punishable by seven years in prison or even just being caught with a net at night.

Q4. What constitutes unlawful hunting of animals?

Ans. The killing of animals without authorization or in violation of conservation and wildlife management rules is known as illegal hunting, sometimes referred to as poaching. There are various varieties of illegal hunting, many of which environmentalists consider to be severe problems.

Updated on: 31-Jan-2023


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