A vast nation of over 3.287 million km2, 29 states, a further seven territories, over 1,600 spoken languages, and a growing population of more than 1.3 billion people, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s difficult to get the nation of India to agree on much as a whole. However, one of the few aspects of modern life that unites people from across the subcontinent is sports.
From the clear-cut national favourites to those with a relatively quaint following, even somewhat niche sports can command an army of millions of followers in India. As internet access has rapidly spread across the country, primarily via incredibly cheap mobile rates, people have become better connected to the sports industry at large, which includes the sector of sports betting.
Similarly to the United States, before online sports betting was allowed to be legalised in each state, fantasy sports betting is very popular in India. Unlike the US, though, India doesn’t strictly outlaw online sports betting, giving millions of sports fans access to the activity.
Here, we’re examining the Indian sports betting scene, its technical legality, how money moves in the Indian industry, the biggest sports, and the services helping customers get acquainted with betting.
Examining the standing legislation of India
As with many nations around the world, the laws governing India’s gambling scene are yet to be amended to cover the vast online betting and gaming scene. At the time of writing, there hasn’t been any official movement declared to change this, despite standing law being outdated and the fact that countries that do regulate end up reaping the benefits of taxation.
Right now, the primary law governing gambling in India is the Public Gambling Act 1867. As the internet hadn’t even been conceived by this date, it’s understandable that it doesn’t cover online betting. It does prohibit the establishment of casinos on land in India, which is why ones on the water float by Goa. Generally speaking, though, states make their own laws with land-based bookmakers being banned but some track betting being allowed.
With the states in charge, more are looking to take the initiative to develop a regulated online betting space, which currently isn’t covered by law. In 2014, Sikkim altered its legislation to issue its first online betting licence to an Indian site. Even without state legislation now, though, as the Technology Act 2000 also doesn’t prohibit online gambling, a loophole exists to allow international brands to offer their services to India, and Indians to accept the offering.
The main point of dispute right now, as it was for years in the US, is if fantasy sports constitute gambling. The debate reached a fever point when it was revealed that fantasy provider Dream11 had won the sponsorship rights to the Indian Premier League in 2020 for ₹222 crore. The argument is the fantasy sports are games of skill and not chance, and while they do clearly differ from casino games in that way, the lines are certainly blurred between sports betting and fantasy sports. Strangely, Sikkim is among seven states that have outlawed online fantasy sports.
Accommodating for the Indian audience
It’s all well and good simply porting a sports betting site from one country to another, but if the brand doesn’t tailor the offering to the new audience, it will fail. In India, this means offering multiple languages for the platform, bonuses and account currency options to include Indian rupees, and deposit and withdrawal options that are accessible to Indian bettors.
While the rates have grown significantly over the last few years, there’s still a large portion of India’s adult population that doesn’t have a bank account – around one-fifth at last count. So, along with the popular eWallet methods like Neteller and Skrill, as well as standard bank transfers, sites have adopted the PaySafeCard. Still needing to find a vendor of the payment method via their official website, the PaySafeCard is offering an alternative way for those who don’t have access to banking to partake in online betting.
Facilitating widespread interest
Fantasy sports have become commonplace, as has access to the internet and interacting deeper with sports through smartphones. So, it’s only natural that the online betting sites in operation have become appealing. However, without India’s oversight, the nation’s online gambling scene is a bit of a mixed bag. Not every site is as scrupulous as the next.
So, to help the bettors of India, online betting hubs have been established, such as SBO.net, covering everything from betting guides to intense betting site reviews. By analysing aspects like a site’s licensing and player safety protocols, the quality of its app, their reputation, and the odds and promotions on offer, SBO homes-in on the handful of sites worthy of Indian players’ time. Those that manage to appease the reviewers invariably offer top-class customer support, the Indian rupee as a currency option, and special features like cash-out and in-play betting.
What sports are stealing the headlines?
It might come as a surprise, but India doesn’t have an official national sport. This is despite it being somewhat of a fun fact that hockey was widely considered to be the national sport, flying in the face of the infinitely popular sport of cricket. Talking about the most popular sport, cricket stands supreme. Whenever the national team is competing in any of the three formats, or the big-money IPL is on, cricket gets national attention.
It’s not just the men’s cricket, either, with the recent deep runs of the women’s team making the female line of cricket even more closely followed across India. It stands head and shoulders above all other sports, but in a nation of 1.3 billion avid sports fans, other competitions certainly own massive fan bases, too. The next in line are football and kabaddi, with foreign leagues being the top picks of the former and the domestic PKL dominating the latter sport from within India.
It’s fair to say that India has yet to amend its statutes enough to cover the increasingly popular online betting scene. Without clear laws or a regulatory body, other seasoned and respected brands have stepped in to ensure that India’s many sports fans can navigate the new space safely and enjoyably.