Indian AIGF Seeks Government Action Against Illegal Offshore Betting Websites

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As reported by regional news site GLaws.in on Fri., Nov. 16, the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take action against unlawful offshore internet betting sites that accept Indian customers. The organization made this request in the form of a letter that contained the names of nine operators in particular, which the AIGF said were breaking Indian law.

Reasons

The letter explained that these foreign websites are luring India’s citizens into the tempting world of online betting where many of them succumb to gambling addiction. Moreover, these sites don’t pay any taxes to the Indian treasury. Finally, the AIGF raised the specter of illicit funds being diverted toward terrorist and criminal groups without the authorities being able to trace the money: a line of reasoning already pioneered by the United States to go after gambling companies as well as many other individuals and businesses who have incurred the ire of the authorities.

Strong Enforcement Requested

The AIGF called on PM Modi to exercise his authority under the ‘Information Technology Act and Rules’ to block transactions between Indians and these gambling companies. It further asks that the Enforcement Directorate launch a “comprehensive probe” into whether these businesses have violated The 2002 Prevention of Money-Laundering Act, the 2000 Foreign Exchange Management Act and other legislation.

About The Culprits

Among the names mentioned by the AIGF as warranting special attention are Bet365.com, Betfair.com, JeetWin.com, BodogIndia.com and 1xbet.com. While some of these are smaller players in the realm of online gaming, Bet365, Betfair and Bodog at least are well-known and respected entities in the industry.

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Furthermore, Bet365 and Betfair are licensed by the United Kingdom gambling Commission, one of the strictest licensing authorities in the world. The gambling Commission frequently delves into the finances of its licensees and would undoubtedly have detected any significant money laundering offenses.

What’s Really Going On

The All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) is a non-profit organization founded in 2016 in Mumbai. Its website claims that it serves as a “forum for discussion among various stake holders associated with the Gaming industry.” These stake holders include local gambling companies, lawyers, reporters and Gaming software developers.

Because it’s not an international body but rather focused on the Indian market, it’s understandable that the AIGF would like to protect its members from the effects of offshore competition. This is likely the real reason for its opposition to offshore gambling sites.

Interestingly, the AIGF has been criticized for its ineffectiveness by its former general secretary and now owner of the GLaws website Jay Sayta. He claimed in May 2018 that the current CEO of the nonprofit, Roland Landers, was not diligent in pursuing the organization’s goals and displayed a “lackadaisical attitude.” Sayta further charged that Landers was beholden to one specific member, Essel Group, his former employer: a privately owned conglomerate with interests in gambling, media, entertainment and other sectors. Sayta also contended that internal bickering among the various members contributed to the AIGF’s failure to accomplish anything of note.

Current Indian Gaming Scene

The present environment for gambling in India is fractured with different states drafting and interpreting their own laws due to the lack of a national framework for the activity. This means that some forms of gambling are legal in some areas while being against the law in others. In addition, many types of Gaming exist in a gray area where their legal status is unclear.

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Only the state of Sikkim has explicitly legalized online real money Gaming with licensed firms, but in practice, it’s possible to engage in internet betting pretty much everywhere throughout the country. Prohibitions against this pastime are based upon dusty statutes, some of which date back to colonial times. Individual players are seldom, if ever, targeted by law enforcement for online gambling.

Possible Changes Coming?

Many citizens and businesses are unsatisfied with the patchwork quilt of existing Indian gambling law. The current situation makes it difficult to know exactly what’s permitted and what’s illegal. Observers of the local gambling scene were therefore heartened in July 2018 when the Law Commission of India released a report calling for regulation of the industry at the national level.

While conceding that gambling is generally a socially harmful pastime, the Commission went on to state that prohibition was bound to fail. It recommended strong regulation of both offline and online operators instead. The report was especially favorable toward poker, which was noted as being a game of skill rather than chance multiple times within the text.

The government of India has not yet acted upon the report, but it may do so in the coming years as unlicensed Gaming increases in popularity. The time may not be far off when the firms now targeted by the AIGF will be able to obtain legitimate authorization to transact in the country either by themselves or in collaboration with India-based partners.