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Regulatory obstacles and ambiguous legal framework impede the growth of India’s gaming sector

Regulatory obstacles and ambiguous legal framework impede the growth of India’s gaming sector

India’s gaming domain harbors considerable potential, yet maneuvering through regulatory impediments and tackling tax ramifications are vital for sustained expansion, gaming expert Sudhir Kalé emphasized in a conversation with AGB.

Kalé, the initiator of Gameplan Consultants, provided an extensive examination of India’s gaming panorama, elucidating its potential as well as existing hurdles.

Being the most populous nation globally, India presents substantial economic prospects for the development of the gaming industry.

“Presently ranked as the fifth-largest economy globally, it is forecasted to ascend to the third spot by 2027, following only the US and China. Furthermore, with an estimated 100 million affluent individuals anticipated by the same year, combined with its youthful demographic, India emerges as an enticing market for diverse sectors, including gaming,” the expert conveyed to AGB.

The gaming landscape in India is multifaceted, encompassing various forms of betting, with Kalé spotlighting three primary categories: horse racing, casino gambling, and online gaming.

Horse racing, with a lineage extending over two centuries, is lawful in numerous states across India. Conversely, casino gambling is confined to just three states: Goa, Daman, and Sikkim.

Goa’s Boat-Casinos

Goa, particularly, shines as a nucleus for casino operations, substantially contributing to the overall revenue generated from gambling pursuits within India. In the southern locale, casino activities predominantly occur aboard cruise vessels to circumvent a steep 28 percent tax levied on land-based casinos.

“These floating casinos proffer an array of entertainment options bundled with the purchase of a ticket, including food, childcare, and gaming chips. I would estimate that presently the market in Goa is hovering around $400 million,” Kalé highlighted.

“Nevertheless, transparency regarding total revenues in Goa is somewhat lacking. This is partly due to the reluctance to fulfill tax obligations.”

Presently, the market’s magnitude is predominantly constrained by the count of its casinos, with the expert indicating that municipal authorities have already declared their reluctance to permit additional cruise casinos.

“They’ve been deliberating the relocation of casinos onshore for numerous years, yet it remains a political conundrum, concerning their prospective locations and the impact on neighboring communities. However, it’s inevitable sooner or later,” he appended.

Currently, the Indian government also prohibits foreign involvement in the casino sector. Nonetheless, Kalé contemplates that historically, there have been analogous bans on industries such as retail or insurance, but eventually, the government relented on the matter.

“In reality, during the peak of Macau’s success when its revenues exceeded $45 billion per annum, Sheldon Adelson proposed that there’s potential for the equivalent of ten Cotai strips in Goa. Thus, the potential is evident to all,” he remarked.

A Constricted Online Gaming Sphere

Regarding the nation’s online gaming domain, Kalé commended its “considerable market size,” with an estimated volume of $3 billion as of 2024, presenting significant potential, particularly in sports betting. Except for horse racing, sports betting is proscribed in most Indian states, yet Indian bettors exhibit notable activity on international platforms.

There exist no federal laws explicitly prohibiting online betting in India, with a few states recently enacting laws against it. Goa, Daman, and Sikkim are the sole Indian states to have legalized online gambling.

Even though Indian casinos are barred from promoting or hosting sites that endorse online gambling activities such as online casinos, sports betting, and bingo, it remains lawful for non-Indian casino entities or offshore firms to operate sites targeting Indian players.

The proliferation of internet connectivity and smartphone usage has further propelled the expansion of online gambling in India, encompassing a diverse array of activities such as casino gamessports betting, fantasy sports, and online lotteries.

Significantly, mobile casinos have witnessed a surge in popularity, offering classic card games, slot machines, or immersive live dealer experiences.

“Sports betting, particularly centered around cricket, emerges as a dominant force in this sphere, with staggering amounts wagered on high-profile matches between India and its rivals,” Kalé highlighted.

According to Kalé, an India-Pakistan match, for instance, could witness billions of rupees wagered on it.

“Cricket is akin to a religion there, and cricket betting is colossal. Some estimates suggest that approximately a billion dollars are staked on cricket every year,” he noted.

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