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Social Impact of Betting in India

[Preamble of the Public Gambling Act of 1867]

Preamble-Whereas it is expedient to make provision for the punishment of public gambling and the keeping of common gambling-houses in the United Provinces, East Punjab, Delhi and the Central Provinces:

It is hereby enacted as follows:-…

India as a country is a very diverse, emotional and religious one. Since time immemorial, betting, gambling and such activities have been looked down upon by the Indian society. So much so that even the Pandavas in the Mahabharata who were considered to be almost symbol of righteousness, fell to the trap of gambling and lost their entire kingdom to it. Thus, gambling is looked upon as a social evil in the Indian Society which is considered to be very addictive and intoxicative.

The social impact of betting in the present day India would in my opinion be hazardous. 

India, is a developing country where even today more than 21.9% of the country’s population lives below the poverty line. These poor people in the quest of making quick money will tend to go for shortcuts of betting and gambling and in the process will majorly lose, (as there is just one winner and a number of losers in such cases) and will fall even lower in the economic index.

Not just the poor people, even the middle class people may tend to opt the shortcut of gambling or betting and as a result may end up falling to the class of poor people.

Betting and gambling give man a chance to earn disproportionate amounts of money in a short time without labor; this fuels the dream of avarice of men. It lures a man away from an honest day’s work. If the already not so rich Indian in dream of earning quick income starts losing all his life long saving on betting, we might altogether give rise to new situation where suicides and disappearing acts maybe on the rise.

The oldest instance of Gambling is the story of Prince Nala told in the Mahabharata. One day Brihadasva, a reputed sage well-versed with the ancient lore guided Yudhishthira on his starting of the 13 yrs. Exile by detailing the heart rending hardships which Nala and Damayanthi underwent patiently and how in the end they regained their prosperity. 

Nala was the ruler of Nishadha. He was the commander of a vast army and conquered many countries and extended the frontiers of his kingdom from coast to coast. He was renowned as an able administrator and a just ruler. Damayanthi was the princess of Vidharbha whose beauty was so much praised that it had crossed all the three worlds. So much so that even the Gods wanted to marry her, but after a series of events, finally Nala married Damayanti and this generated hatred for him amongst a number of young unmarried men across the three worlds. One of those many haters was a demon named Kali who for vengeance lured Nala, who was a known gambler, into gambling with him. In the gamble Nala lost all his wealth and kingdom. The act worked in favour of Kali but the love between Nala and Damayanti was enough to help them sail together through this issue. After a number of years and through the series of events and hardships, finally Nala and Damayanti regained their lost glory.

Thus, the lesson Brihadasva tried to give to Yudhishthira from this story was that Gambling brings you loss and misery but if you stay strong together, the bad times too will pass ending with you regaining your lost glory.

The teacher of the Gods Brihaspati dealing with gambling in chapter XXVI, verse 199, recognised that gambling had been totally prohibited by Manu because it destroyed truth, honesty and -wealth, while other law givers permitted it when conducted under the control of the State so as to allow the king a share of every stake. Such was the notion of Hindu law givers regarding the vice of gambling.

Not just the Hindu religious texts, even the Quran, i.e., the Muslim religious text has its views on gambling as follows: Hamilton in his Hedaya, vol. IV, book XLIV, includes gambling as a kiraheeat or abomination. He says: “It is an abomination to play at chess, dice or any other game; for if anything is staked it is gambling, which is expressly prohibited in the Koran; or if, on the other band, nothing be hazarded it is useless and vain.

The Delhi High Court in the case of Haryana State Lotteries, Iqbal vs Govt. Of Nct of Delhi & Ors., 1998 (46) DRJ 397 quoted P.V. Kane that,” Conceding, for the sake of argument, that indulgence in gambling even on the part of such a virtuous, noble and philosophic warrior as Yudhishthira was justified or at least excusable, there is nothing to show that the code of Kshatriya chivalry permitted him to gamble away his own spirited, devoted and virtuous queen and his four valiant brothers. It appears that the real aim of the great author of the Mahabharata is to emphasize that gambling is such a reprehensible pastime and so ruinous and degrading that even the greatest and the best, when once they indulge in it, lose all sense of duty, morality and the claims of love and affection. It has already been seen how gambling was looked upon as a great vice in the king by writers on politics and also the Dharmasastras. Even the Puranas here and there condemn gambling. For example, the Brahmapurana (171.29-38) condemns it in strong language. It says that the gambler’s wife is always in distress and the gambler, on seeing the condition of his wife, is also worried (this is in almost the same words as Rg. X. 34, 10-11), the Vedas condemn gambling and that there is no sin comparable to gambling.”

The SC in the case of The State of Bombay vs R. M. D. Chamarbaugwala, 1957 AIR 699; Disregarded gambling by citing the Rigveda and also the Mahabharata as mentioned below.

The Rigveda disregards the practice of gambling in its hymn XXXIV, verses 7, 10, 11 and 13 as follows:

7. Dice verily are armed with goads and driving hooks, deceiving and     tormenting, causing grievous woe. They give frail gifts and then destroy the man who wins, thickly anointed with the player’s fairest good.

10. The gambler’s wife is left forlorn and wretched: the mother mourns the son who wanders homeless.

11. Sad is the gambler when he sees a matron, another’s wife, and his well-ordered dwelling. He yokes the brown steeds in the early morning, and when the fire is cold sinks down an outcast.

13. Play not with dice: no, cultivate thy corn-land. Enjoy the gain, and deem that wealth sufficient. There are thy cattle there thy wife, O gambler. So this good Savitar himself hath told me.


  • Verse 221 advises the king to exclude from his realm gambling and betting, for those two vices cause the destruction of the kingdom of princes.
  • Verse 224 enjoins upon the king the duty to corporally punish all those persons who either gamble or bet or provide an opportunity for it. 
  • Verse 225 calls upon the king to instantly banish all gamblers from his town. 
  • Verse 226 the gamblers are described as secret thieves who constantly harass the good subjects by their forbidden practices. 
  • Verse 227 calls gambling a vice causing great enmity and advises wise men not to practice it even for amusement. The concluding 
  • Verse 228 provides that on every man who addicts himself to that vice either secretly or openly the king may inflict punishment according to his discretion.

The Supreme Court in the case of All Kerala Online Lottery Dealers Association vs. State of Kerala & Ors.,(2016) 2 SCC 161 said,” It is common case that lottery is a species of gambling.  Gambling is considered as a pernicious vice by all civilized societies from time immemorial. The Rigveda’s, Smritis and Arthashastras   have   condemned gambling as a vice.  Several Judges and learned authors are unanimous in their condemnation of gambling.  Experience has shown that the common forms of gambling are comparatively innocuous when placed in contrast with widespread pestilence of lotteries. The  former  are  confined  to  a  few persons and places, but the latter infests the whole  community;  it  enters every dwelling; it reaches every class; it preys upon the hard  earnings  of the poor; it plunders the ignorant and the simple.”

The Supreme Court in the case of Dr. K.R. Lakshmanan vs. State of Tamil Nadu & Anr., 1996 AIR 1153; said,” We are convinced and satisfied that the real purpose of Arts.19 (1) (g) and 301 could not possibly have been to guarantee or declare the freedom of gambling. Gambling activities from their very nature and in essence are extra- commercium although the external forms, formalities and instruments of trade may be employed and they are not protected either by Art. 19 (1) (g) or Art. 301 or our Constitution.”

Time and again the courts have referred to the religious texts and have thereby disregarded Gambling as a social evil that is very harmful for any society. They have very categorically laid instances whereupon the Indian society has looked down upon Gambling, and betting as an addictive social evil, and have then said that they should at no cost be practiced by anyone in the society.

Taking into view all the above points, it Gambling cannot be out rightly considered bad for a society. 

The Supreme Court in the case of The State of Bombay vs R. M. D. Chamarbaugwala, 1957 AIR 699; Has citied 

  • Yajnavalkya, a Vedic sage who sought to bring it under State control but he too in verse 202(2) provided that persons gambling with false dice or other instruments should be branded and punished by the king.
  • Kautilya, one of the best Indian teacher, philosopher, economist, jurist and royal advisor of all times also advocated State control of gambling and, as a practical person that he was, was not-averse to the State earning some revenue therefrom. 

Kautilya during his era had legalized gambling and it was made state-regulated industry with a 5 per cent tax on winnings.

The RBI Report in 2003, ‘State Finances – A study of Budget 2002-03,’ showed that there is a tremendous increase in states’ profits from lotteries.

The RBI in its Report laid down the revenue collected by the State Lotteries along the years from 2010 to 2013; in its page number 89.

Gambling if legalized in India will serve two purposes:

  • It will introduce a new concept in the entertainment and hospitality industry;
  • It will generate revenue for the state.

 It is also a good way for employment generation and reduction of crime rate.

An analogy might perhaps be made with the stock market. 

In case of Stock Markets also people place their amounts on a particular share and in case the price of the share goes up they end up gaining profits, else there may also be cases of bankruptcy where a person placed all his amount on a share and the share went down in the market drastically. The sums of money involved in stock market are also massive.

The Government has introduced STT (Securities Transaction Tax) which is applicable on every transaction done at stock exchange. That means if you buy or sell equity shares, derivative instruments, equity oriented Mutual Funds this tax is applicable. The STT collection contributes to about 0.5 – 1% of the total revenue collected by the Indian Govt. The percent may seem quite low but the amount it generates is huge.

Year STT Collection (in Crores) Total Collection (in Crores) Percentage of STT collection in the total revenue collected (%)
2011-2012 7394.17 456535.67 1.62
2012-2013 7155.42 569868.90 1.26
2013-2014 5656.26 629764.81 0.89
2014-2015 4996.86 741877.36 0.67
2015-2016 5017.50 815854.22 0.62
2016-2017 7398.15 1244884.53 0.59

The idea whether this practice of Stock market is moral or immoral is also an arguable topic. The main principle for such practices should be fairness and the games of Gambling, betting or for that matter even placing amounts on a Share should be done as per some basic set of prescribed and laid down rules.

Law Wire Team
Law Wire Team
Law Wire Team attempts to delve into pertinent (and sometimes not immediately pertinent) questions regarding socio-politics, Law and their interesting matrix.

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