RWITC obtains permission for online betting amid lacunae in law

Published on:

The Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) has obtained a permission from the Maharashtra government to conduct horse races in Mumbai and Pune. In November 2021, the RWITC announced a pact with Paytm First Games to launch online screening and offering of betting through online mode. Now, wagers can be placed through the Paytm app.

Betting on horse racing is legal in Maharashtra

Betting on horse races is legal in Maharashtra and is regulated under the century old Bombay Race Courses Licensing Act, 1912. The Club got permission from the Maharashtra government on January 7 to conduct online betting on horse races in Mumbai and Pune. Zavaray Poonawalla, chairman of RWITC in a media release said it was a historical achievement for the club, and said he believes that online betting is the “lifeline for horse racing”. G2G learnt that the online betting option opened to users on January 8.

Also read: Hyderabad police arrest bizman on Diwali night, let off four TRS MLAs

Paytm First Games also offers betting on races of the Hyderabad Race Club; bets can only be placed by residents of Telangana. The Paytm First Games app asks for location permission on a user’s phone. Online bets for HRC races can also be placed on the website and app of Hyderabad Race Club and Turf Winners, apart from Paytm First Games.

The RWITC resumed horse-racing on November 27 after 8 months of being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.“Enthusiasts can log on to and click on live streaming which will take the user to Paytm site for live relay of the races,” Poonwalla had told The Hindu.

Milan Luthria, member of the managing committee and chairman of stewards at the Club had said that Paytm First Games “will be our live streaming and then online betting partners”.

Also read: Rummy apps return to Telugu States despite ban

In a 1996 judgment in Dr. K.R. Lakshmanan case, the Supreme Court declared that horse race betting was a game of skill and not chance. “We have no hesitation in reaching the conclusion that the horse-racing is a sport which primarily depends on the special ability acquired by training. It is the speed and stamina of the horse, acquired by training, which matters. Jockeys are experts in the art of riding. Between two equally fast horses, a better trained jockey can touch the winning-post,” the Supreme Court held.

Also read: Karnataka HC strikes down gaming ban law as unconstitutional

While Indian law and jurisprudence have ruled that games of skill are not gambling, gambling/gaming are state subjects and several states including Telangana (with exception to horse racing), Andhra Pradesh have banned gambling of any sort, including placing bets on ‘games of skill’.

In December 2020, the Karnataka government withdrew a similar permission given to the Bangalore Turf Club for online betting in response to a case filed before the Karnataka High Court challenging the state’s power to grant such permission (C Gopal v. State of Karnataka and ors). The Karnataka government on 2nd July 2020 has accorded in principle approval to the Bangalore Turf Club to conduct online betting.