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The north eastern states of India are a popular hub for tourists as well as adventure sports lovers. In Meghalaya, one unique form of adventure games is the Shillong Morning Teer games, which is regarded as one of the most prominent lotteries in the north east. However, it brings the legality of lottery (or the lack of it) into limelight.
The Shillong Teer game, which is regulated by the Khasi Hills Archery Sports Institute (KHASI), is an archery-based lottery game where the archers hit a bundle of straw some distance away and bets are placed on the number of arrows that eventually land in the bale.
Laws related to lottery in India
Lottery in India is governed by the Lotteries (Regulation) Act, 1998 and the Lotteries (Regulation) Rules, 2010 which essentially lay down provisions relating to lotteries- their organization, conduct and the like. Section 2 (b) of the stated Act defines lottery as “a scheme, in whatever form and by whatever name called, for distribution of prizes by lot or chance to those persons participating in the chances of a prize by purchasing tickets”.
Section 6 of the said Act gives power to the Central Government to prohibit a lottery organized, conducted or promoted in contravention to the provisions of the specified Act, while Section 7 concerns with the penalty provisions.
The Indian Penal Code, 1860 under Section 294A provides that whoever keeps any office or place for the purpose of drawing any lottery, not being a State lottery, or a lottery authorized by the State Government, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.
Section 30 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 states that agreements by way of wager are void.
Furthermore, the Consumer Protection Act prohibits conduct of any contest, lottery, game of chance or skill, for the purpose of promoting, directly or indirectly, the sale, use or supply of any product or any business interest.
Are lotteries legal / illegal in India?
As can be gauged from the discussion above, the rules and regulations pertaining to lotteries are not entirely unambiguous or black and white. There is no blanket ban on lotteries and certain Indian States such as Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Goa, Kerela, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Punjab, Sikkim, etc. have legalized them.
Thus, the power lies in the hands of the State Governments to map out laws for regulating, licensing and taxing lotteries.
Further, as per the recent elucidation by the NITI Aayog, lucky draws that are directed towards encouraging digital transactions do not come within the ambit of lottery and are consequently not banned.
Are online international lotteries legal / illegal in India?
Since international lotteries are organized by foreign operators outside India and the actual lottery is also drawn outside the country, the law of the land is not applicable. Thus, people from those Indian States where lottery is considered to be illegal can also play online lottery. Private Indian lotteries are, however, banned.
The Lotteries (Regulation) Act, 1998 was essentially enacted to protect the interest of the credulous public and the poor so as to prevent them from becoming addicts and falling into the abyss of bankruptcy. The organization and promotion of lottery rests with the State Governments to protect the interest of the public.
The further objective is to keep a check on and manage the lottery sales such that the selling and distribution of lotteries is solely brought within the control of the State Governments as opposed to private individuals.
One of the reasons for which lottery is considered to be a legal form of gambling when organized by the government is the massive sale and tax revenue it generates. It is therefore considered to be an excellent way to enhance government earnings. It is even argued that the money generated may be used to run various social welfare programs, like in China and England.
Thus, in order to ensure just and structured conduction of lotteries in India, the government should take initiative to bring in greater clarity into the existing laws / formulate new lottery laws. It is equally imperative to keep a check on the illegal private lotteries. There could also be a curb on the number of tickets a person could buy so that the lotteries remain a form of leisure and relaxation only and do not become an unfortunate source of income.
The government must therefore endeavor to address and resolve the pending issues and overcome the existing ambiguities related to lotteries in India for the collective benefit of one and all.
7. THE LOTTERIES (REGULATION) ACT, 1998
8. THE INDIAN PENAL CODE, 1860
9. THE INDIAN CONTRACT ACT, 1872
10. THE CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT, 1986
Originally Published by Global Advertising Lawyers Alliance (GALA)
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