Gambling has had a long and storied past in India. From our mythological heroes like Yudhishthir to the common man today, everyone enjoys a game of chance and skill. But over the years, many modern regulations have crept up to stop people from betting on events, be it sports betting, card games or even slot machines.
The strongest of these regulations are set up in Odisha and Assam, where all kinds of betting activities have been banned. Players cannot even make online bets or wager a few rupees on a big cricket final. But how did this come about?
History of betting in Odisha
The first major legal hurdle to gambling in Odisha was set up in 1867. The British, at the time, sought to control any betting throughout the country, so they enacted the Public Gambling Act, 1867. Two other acts were enacted in Odisha, namely the Bengal Gambling Act, 1867, and the Madras Gambling Act, 1930.
All these acts were later replaced by the Orissa Prevention of Gambling Act, 1955, enacted five years after independence. It was enacted “to secure the ultimate prevention of gambling”. Under this act, gamblers were prosecuted, as well as people who ran gambling houses.
The act was later amended to include online gambling on Indian betting sites as well.
Irrespective of the restrictions, the traditions of gambling did not vanish. Gambling is still performed during festivals like Kumar Purnima as well as during weddings. Many people believe that your performance when betting during the Puja brings about your fortune for the coming year. Another legend says that Lord Krishna used to gamble with his queen Rukmini, and if people do not follow that tradition, they will be reincarnated as owls.
In the spirit of maintaining these traditions, family gambling is allowed, but all other gambling dens are considered illegal. Apart from these traditional aspects, people indulge in gambling over sports and other events too.
How is it done?
As mentioned above, gambling within the family is pretty much the only way people can gamble legally. However, this does not stop people from utilising grey methods to make bets.
Most people give money to betting circles, using mobile phones and go-betweens to place bets. These circles offer slightly reduced prizes since they take a percentage of the winning bets. They collect money from clients, primarily college students and businessmen, and then transfer it to their contact through various online payment sites, at which point the contact makes the bets.
However, the legal hurdles make it difficult for people to bet safely. In 2019, over 200 people were arrested in various gambling-related raids. Since all Indian betting sites are banned as well, players use technologies like Virtual Private Networks and the like to bypass security and make their bets. According to the betting comparison site Mybetting.in, the number of players from Odisha has been increasing in the last 5 years.
While lawmakers may try to stop people from betting, the simple fact is that people are going to bet no matter what. Hence, several movements have started to legalise betting in Odisha in an attempt to make it safe for people who wish to play. Legalising and regulating bets properly will also lead to increased tourism and more money in the hands of the government. As such, the gambling situation in Odisha may change soon, and we should keep an eye out for such positive changes.