What is Public gambling Act, 1867?


The Public Gambling Act, 1867: Whether a Central Enactment

The Act 1867 is derived from the British Gaming Act, 1845 and the Betting Act, 1853. The Acts of 1845 and 1853 made wagering contracts unenforceable while repealing the Unlawful Games Act 1541103. The Act of 1867 was primarily enacted with the purpose of punishing public gambling and the keeping of common gaming-houses.

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The Constitution of India confers upon the States the power to make laws on “Betting and Gambling”, for they are enumerated in Entry 34 of List II of the Seventh Schedule. Such being the constitutional arrangement, there cannot be a Central Legislation on the subject unless the Parliament legislates by exercising its power under Articles 249 or 250, as the case may be, or by exercising power conferred by Article 252 of the Constitution. In fact, the Act 1867, enacted by the erstwhile British rulers was applicable only to the North-West Provinces, the Presidencies of Fort William, the Punjab, Ouch, the Central Provinces and British Burma.

The Government of India Act, 1935 listed all matters pertaining to betting and gambling under Entry 36 of the List II (Provincial Legislative List). Accordingly, under sub section 3 of section 100, the Provincial legislatures alone were authorized to enact laws pertaining to betting and gambling. In addition to this, the Provincial legislatures had legislative competence under Entry 50 of List II of Act 1935 to enact laws pertaining to taxation on betting and gambling.

The Constitution of India adopted the same classification as provided for in the Government of India Act, 1935. Betting and Gambling are listed as Entry 34 of List II of the Seventh Schedule, and therefore, only the State legislatures have competence to make laws pertaining to betting and gambling. Further, Entry 62 of the State List confers upon the State legislatures, the competence to make laws pertaining to taxation on ‘betting and gambling‘.

Accordingly, after 1935, with the States in India having been conferred with the exclusive power to enact laws on “betting and gambling” as also laws concerning taxation thereof, the Public Gambling Act ceased to be a Central Legislation, such that it was no longer a law applicable to the whole of the territory of India. In the current regime, the only manner in which it can still be held to be applicable is if it is adopted by a State(s) legislature(s) out of its own free will.

The following 14 States/Union Territories have passed enactments adopting the Public Gambling Act, 1867 as it is, namely:

1. Andaman Nicobar

2. Arunachal Pradesh

3. Chandigarh

4. Dadra and Nagar Haveli

5. Haryana

6. Himachal Pradesh

7. Lakshadweep

8. Punjab

9. Madhya Pradesh

10. Chhattisgarh

11. Manipur

12. Mizoram

13. Tripura

14. Uttarakhand

Other States like Andhra Pradesh104, Delhi105, Gujarat and Maharashtra106, Jammu & Kashmir107 Meghalaya108 and Goa109 among many others have resorted to enacting their own gambling legislations. A brief description of some of these Acts is as follows: