In India, gambling is a very popular activity. Unfortunately, many Indian states, including Maharashtra, have very strict laws regarding this hobby. However, this has not ended the practice of gambling. Mumbai, the largest city in Maharashtra, has a thriving gambling industry, although most of it is illegal.
The legal framework for gambling in Maharashtra is constantly changing. That's why it's important to look into these gambling laws to make sure you do not put yourself at risk. At SevenJackpots, we closely monitor the gambling landscape for our readers to ensure you are always up to date with the latest information.
Maharashtra Gambling Laws
One of the differences between Maharashtra and other states in India is that the laws that restrict gambling in Maharashtra are very clear. The most important gambling law in this state is the Maharashtra Prevention of Gambling Act, also known as the Bombay Prevention of Gambling Act. This law expressly prohibits the operation of a gambling house, which means that casinos in Maharashtra are not legal.
Although the Maharashtra Law on the Prevention of Gambling makes the operation of a gambling house illegal, the punishments for this crime are very small. For a first offense, the fine is only £ 200 and the prison sentence is one month. A second conviction to run a gambling house leads to a prison sentence of three months, but the fine is still GBP 200. A third conviction requires a six-month prison term, but there is no fine. These light fines are one of the main reasons that illegal gambling houses are so common in cities like Mumbai.
Maharashtra and the Lottery
Although the Maharashtra Law on the Prevention of Gambling makes casinos illegal, certain forms of gambling are legal in this state. For example, unlike other states in India, the lottery in Maharashtra is legal, although there are certain restrictions. The 1998 lottery law sets the rules for the lottery in Maharashtra. Most importantly, only agents authorized by the Maharashtra government are allowed to print and sell tickets for the lottery. Printing and selling tickets without regulatory approval can result in imprisonment of up to two years.
Who wants to sell lottery tickets, must also register with the tax authority of Maharashtra. Tax registration has led to some disputes as lottery tax rates are much higher than many would prefer. For example, a tax of 28 percent has been levied on approved private lotteries from 2017 onwards. Lottery ticket brokers participated in a two-day strike in August 2017 in protest against this tax rate.
Horse Racing in Maharashtra
In India, eight states have legalized betting on horse racing, including Maharashtra. Betting on horse racing was first legalized in 1912 in Maharashtra with the passing of the Bombay Race Courses Licensing Act. For bets on horse racing to be legal, they must be placed with a licensed bookmaker.
The main reason why Maharashtra, among other things, has declared betting on horse racing legal, is that the courts have ruled that horse racing is not just a coincidence, but other forms of gambling. Horse racing involves several factors, such as the speed and stamina of the horse, and the ability of the jockey to be considered skill rather than chance.
Another probable reason why betting on horse races in Maharashtra is legal is that the government receives a huge amount of tax revenue from this form of gambling. The Government of Maharashtra is entitled to collect tax revenue from horse racing betting based on two tax laws: the Maharashtra Betting Tax Act of 1925 and the Maharashtra Betting Tax Rules of 1961. All maharashtra sweepstakes, including horse race winnings, are subject to tax of 30 percent.
Maharashtra Laws and Card Games
While horse racing and the lottery are the only two types of bets that are expressly allowed in Maharashtra, it is also possible for residents of that state to enjoy certain card games such as rummy and poker. The main problem associated with these games is whether they are games of skill or gambling, which determines their legality in Maharashtra.
For example, there were cases in which people in Maharashtra were arrested for playing cards and later released after the High Court ruled that they had done nothing illegal. If you are trying to determine whether card seating is legal or illegal, you need to consider the scope of related skills.
Most card games, including rummy, poker and bridge, are considered skill games by Maharashtra courts. The reason to treat these card games as skill games is that the player's success depends on strategy or memorization.
Maharashtra Gambling Law Changes
As in many states of India, online betting in Maharashtra is a very complicated topic. Since casinos are illegal, online gambling is very popular as countless residents play online poker and rummy games and place cricket bets with online bookmakers. The Maharashtra government sees the ubiquity of online gambling as a major issue, and in 2018 has considered introducing new rules that would limit online gambling.
As gambling has the potential to generate tax revenues and attract tourists, some legislators have tried to ease the restrictions. For example, in 2016, the government briefly considered legalizing offshore casinos such as Goa and Sikkim. Technically, casinos were legalized by the 1976 Maharashtra Casinos (Control and Tax) Act, but the law was never implemented, and there were countless legal disputes over whether gambling houses could be opened in Maharashtra or not.
If the pro-gambling side finds its way, it is quite possible that additional forms of gambling will become legal in this Indian state. On the other hand, it is also possible that the government will continue to enforce existing laws and further restrict online gambling.