The Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC), which conducts horse races in Mumbai and Pune, has begun taking online bets on horse races on Paytm First Games. Both the Club and Paytm First Games have announced the development. Since January 10, residents of Maharashtra have been able to place bets on races on the Paytm First Games app.
The Club got permission from the Maharashtra government to conduct online betting on horse races in Mumbai and Pune on January 7. Zavaray Poonawalla, chairman of RWITC said it was a historical achievement for the club, and said he believes that online betting is the “lifeline for horse racing”. The Hindu first reported this on January 8. On the Paytm First Games app, only residents of Maharashtra can place bets on RWITC races, in compliance with state laws.
The RWITC resumed horse-racing on November 27 after 8 months of being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In November, the Club had partnered with Paytm First Games to livestream races from the Pune Race Course on the mobile app. “Enthusiasts can log on to www.rwitc.com 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”. Passes to livestreams of horse races can be purchased on the Paytm First Games app.
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.
In a 1996 judgment, the Supreme Court declared that horse race betting was a game of skill and not chance. It’s one of the few sports in which betting in legally permitted. While Indian law and jurisprudence have ruled that games of skill are not gambling, gambling/gaming are state subjects and several states have banned gambling of any sort, including placing bets on ‘games of skill’.
In December, the Karnataka government withdrew permission to the Bangalore Turf Club for online betting, which it had granted in July, per the New Indian Express. This came after a public interest litigation in the Karnataka High Court that questioned the government for allegedly granting permission without any authority of law. The court, however, granted liberty to the Club to submit fresh applications seeking permission and said the state can consider the same in accordance with law.