Gambling experiences, problems and policy in India: A historical analysis


Aims: This paper seeks to provide a historical overview of gambling and contemporary anti-gambling legislation in India. Methods: Based on a review of available literature, including historical sources, publications in the lay press and internet sources, this paper draws together evidence to present a synopsis of gambling and anti-gambling measures from antiquity to present times. Results: Gambling is a popular pastime and has been a ubiquitous part of daily life from antiquity until the present. Archaic laws, framed in the 19th century, still regulate gambling in India, with a formal ban on most forms of gambling. This has created a huge illegal gambling market, with its attendant problems. Recent developments, including an explosion of sports betting operations (especially in cricket) and internet betting sites, are challenging the status quo and leading to calls for legalizing gambling. Concern for the consequences of pathological/ problem gambling is conspicuous by its absence in popular discourse and academic research. Conclusions: Despite the importance and longevity of the practice of gambling in the daily life of India, and the opposition to it, due to the potential for individual and societal harm there is a surprising lack of contemporary curiosity and scholarly literature on pathological gambling from the region. The prohibitions against gambling are being increasingly challenged to change to a system of legalized gambling. To inform and guide public policy and future legislation, there is a serious need to initiate rational, scientific enquiries into the nature and impact of gambling in India.

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