AIGF Calls for Narendra Modi to Block Online Gambling Payments
The All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) asked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to block payments between internationally licensed gambling sites and local gamblers. The AIGF wrote a letter calling for the prime minister to allow the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to initiate a domain blocking campaign.
The letter mentioned 9 international operators in particular, including well-known international sites like Betfair, Bet365, and Bodog India. The list also included online casinos which operate throughout the European and Asian black market, like 1xbet, and regional Indian gaming sites like Jeetwin.
The AIGF claimed each of the operators were rogue sites who routinely break Indian law. Online gambling exists in a gray area in India. The key national law which covers gambling was passed in 1868, during the era of the British Raj.
India’s Gambling Laws
For that reason, the national government does not permit online gambling. Still, several Indian high court decisions carved out a niche for state governments to legalize online gambling, so individual Indian states have the right to authorize online gambling if they want to.
The state of Sikkim allows online gambling, but only allows wagering via digital terminals in betting shops. The stated reason for such a law is to encourage tourism, by forcing people to have a physical presence in betting shops in order to gamble online.
AIGF Letter to Narendra Modi
The All-India Gaming Federation letter alleges that the gaming operators who accept Indian players are in violation of the Foreign Exchange Management Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. Operators like Betfair and Bet365 accept payments through international digital wallets like Neteller and Skrill, while they also accept the Islamic “hawala” money transfer system.
The AIGF’s leaders told Narendra Modi that offshore online operators are “luring and accepting bets from Indian citizens.”
In doing so, said the gaming federation, the betting sites have “lured to the addiction and risk of gambling” thousands of Indian residents.
Claim Online Gaming Funds Organized Crime
The gaming federation, which was founded in 2017, took a page from US lawmakers and anti-online gambling advocates by claiming that offshore online gaming sites fund illegal activities. In the United States, some extreme opponents of online gambling have claimed that unlicensed online betting sites fund organized crime and terrorism.
The letter to the prime minister went further, claiming gaming sites like Bet365 and Betfair pose a threat to Indian national security. The letter stated that Indians signing up for real money accounts lead to “a national security threat as these transactions lead to outflow of money outside India through unaccounted and clandestine means.”
It is a sign that xenophobia and fearmongering are not a purely western phenomenon. Sites like Betfair, Bet365, and Bodog are well known entities which have been in the online gambling business for 20 years — sometimes 25 years. Their founders are well known and considered legitimate in the west. They hardly are fronts for anti-India terrorist organizations.
ISP Blocking Could Work
Blocking payment processors is a tactic law enforcement in the United States and Australia have taken in the past. The UIGEA worked because most payment processors that were traded on the London Stock Exchange left the US gaming market.
More recently, countries have blocked the domains or IP addresses of unlicensed gaming operators. That process is afoot in Albania, Georgia, Norway, and Switzerland. Russia tries to do the same with its blacklist of sites. Such a method is effective, though it infringes upon citizens’ privacy rights and ISPs right to make business decisions free from government control.