Ancient Beginnings

Gambling in India dates back thousands of years. The concept of gambling is rooted in ancient Indian writings and epics, and references to dice games can be found in texts such as the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. In the Mahabharata epic of the Kurukshetra war, the infamous dice game between the Pandavas and the Kauravas was the decisive event that started the chain of events leading to the great battle.

Dice were among the oldest gambling tools and were expertly crafted from a variety of materials, including ivory, wood and bone. Ancient Indians were able to devise complex games of chance and strategy using dice, which could result in both benign entertainment and high-stakes betting.

Medieval India

During the Middle Ages, gambling in India became more widespread and varied. Royalty and nobility often engaged in sophisticated gambling, including games such as Pachisi (the forerunner of modern Ludo) and Ashtapada (an ancient board game). Gambling was not only a form of entertainment, but also a means of social cohesion and entertainment for the elite.

The Moghul rulers, who ruled a significant part of India, were also fond of gambling. Emperor Akbar in particular was known for his love of dice games and often played with his courtiers. The Mughals even introduced the Persian card game "Ganjifa", which became popular among the aristocracy.

British Influence and Legalization

The British colonial period in India brought significant changes to gambling. While the British introduced new forms of gambling, such as horse racing, they also aimed to regulate and control existing gambling in the country. The Public Gaming Act of 1867 was important in this respect, providing a legal framework for regulating gambling practices.

Under this Act, different forms of gambling were divided into 'games of skill' and 'games of chance'. Skill-based games such as horse racing and card games were allowed, while pure games of chance, such as traditional dice games, were prohibited. However, despite these rules, gambling continued to develop as an illegal and underground activity.

Modern Era

Gambling remains an important and controversial industry in modern India. States have been granted autonomy to determine their own position on gambling, resulting in a complex set of regulations across the country. Goa and Sikkim have become gambling havens and casinos and other gambling establishments have become major tourist attractions.
Another popular form of gambling in India is the lottery, and state governments organise their own lotteries as a source of revenue. The Indian Premier League (IPL), a very popular cricket tournament, has also seen a boom in sports betting (both legal and illegal).

Despite this, gambling remains a sensitive subject in India, often associated with social problems and problems of addiction. In recent years, calls for more comprehensive regulations and responsible gambling practices have become louder


The history of gambling in India is a testament to the country's long-standing fascination with gambling and games of chance. From the ancient dice games of the Mahabharata to the modern casinos of Goa, gambling has evolved with the changes in Indian culture and society. As India continues to grapple with the complexities of the industry, it will be interesting to see how the gambling industry in this diverse and dynamic country evolves in the future.

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