India Shifts Considerations to Legalize Crypto Gambling

Legalization of the multi-billion sports betting business could provide the much-needed lifeline to India’s ailing cryptocurrency ecosystem. A new legal report published by India legislators has caught many people by surprise, on mentioning cryptocurrencies in the same breath as other acceptable payment options. It was only more than a year ago that the Indian government was unclear how to treat Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency, keeping virtual currency in a gray area, not considered money.

India’s Cryptocurrency Ban

India is one of the countries in the world that has maintained a tough stance against virtual currencies. The country’s de-facto central bank has always insisted that such assets cannot be treated as means for legal tender.

In April, the Reserve Bank of India ordered all banks and financial institutions in the country to cease from offering support to cryptocurrency transactions. The order led to the filing of lawsuits, with the country’s Supreme Court tasked with the responsibility of providing the way forward from the current standoff.

Even as the Supreme Court of India (SCoI) continues to deliberate on the matter, a new report could as well have provided hints at the possibility of cryptocurrencies finding their way into the Indian society, legally and soon.

Cryptocurrency Legitimacy

India’s legislative body has for quite some time been studying the positives and negatives of sports gambling which remains illegal at the moment. In its report, the Commission notes that an outright ban has only resulted in rampant illicit gambling activities in the black market.  To combat illegal gambling activities the commission has called for formulation of policies to regulate the industry and consider a control over bitcoin casinos.

According to the Commission, the regulation aspect would mostly focus on the cashless payment systems such as credit cards as well as debit cards and cryptocurrencies.

“Gambling transactions should be made cashless, making use of electronic means of payment such as credit cards, debit cards, net-banking, virtual currencies (VC, or cryptocurrency), etc.,” the commission had recommended in its report submitted to the SCoI.

The commission mentioning digital currencies along other recognized payment options appears to have fuelled chatter that the government could be forced to change its stance when it comes to cryptocurrencies especially on legalizing sports betting.

India appears to be taking note of the fact that an outright ban on certain activities never achieves the desired impact. For instance, the gambling ban has had little or no effect in preventing people from placing bets on their favorite sporting events. Even with the ban on cryptocurrency gambling in place, some people continue to explore loopholes to buy and sell cryptocurrencies of their choice online.

While cryptocurrencies have continued to arouse concerns which have prevented their adoption into the mainstream sector, the commission has called for strict laws to help curb money laundering.

According to the Law Commission, regulating gambling would make a lot of sense as opposed to imposing an outright ban. If indeed true, then the same can also be said about cryptocurrencies, which as it stands are banned in the country.

Cryptocurrency Legalization Pathway

This is the first governing body formed that has touted cryptocurrency as an alternative means of payment. The remarks have gone as far as fuelling suggestions that it might only be a matter of time before India recognizes Bitcoin as an alternative form of payment.

However, acceptance of altcoins could take some time given that the government remains focused only on the underlying blockchain technology. In addition, the online gambling debate has been going on for many years with gambling remaining illegal for over 150 years.

Talk of gambling legalization appears to have gained momentum in the wake of the 2013 match-fixing scandal in the Indian Premier league where high-level sporting personalities and officials were implicated.

Unless the government lifts the ban on gambling, then it is highly unlikely that it will also lift the current ban on cryptocurrencies. Either way, illegal sports betting should continue to thrive in the underworld, especially with the emergence of platforms supporting cryptocurrencies.

Regulation appears to be the only way out of the current standoff given that sports and crypto betting will continue to thrive with or without the government support. Betting activities have become more accessible trends that can only continue to grow as cryptocurrencies become popular.

Cryptocurrency legality in India will be known on September 11, 2018, when the Supreme Court deliberates on the matter.

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