Gambling laws in Bangladesh and its effectiveness



The practice of gambling is nothing new to us. The way, it is slowly poisoning the society, is beyond imagination. By gambling, one can win or lose hundreds of thousands in a second. Wilson Mizner, an American playwright, once said, “Gambling the sure way of getting nothing for something.” Gambling spreads through a person’s vein in such a way that it becomes intoxicating than any other drug. A gambler can never think naturally, the only thing he can think is gambling. Most of the research study states that, people start to gamble to ease financial crisis. Gambling was identified as a cause of violence against women too. 

In Bangladesh all forms of gambling are forbidden, including online platform-based gambling. Bangladesh imposes fines and imprisonment as a punishment for gambling. But this is only true for land-based gambling, because there are no specific online gambling laws. But these laws are very old and ambiguous in nature. Though formally gambling is absent in Bangladesh the reality shows it otherwise. Wagering, betting etc. types of gambling can be seen especially in rural places and in slums. Casino and online based gambling are also getting popular as a posh gambling in city areas. 

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Therefore, understanding the negative sides of gambling is very crucial for us all. On the face of it, many can say that gambling is not so popular in our country and many people do not even know about the existence of gambling in Bangladesh. So, it is very important to highlight these matters towards people.

My purpose of writing this paper is to represent the current situation of gambling in Bangladesh and to highlight the existing laws also examine its effectiveness regarding gambling in Bangladesh.

My essay seeks to address the following questions:

a)      What are the laws we have in Bangladesh to deal with gambling business?

b)      Are the laws compatible enough to cope with the recent phenomenon of gambling?

c)      Do the laws cover online based gambling?

d)   Whether it should be taken into consideration or not?

The Constitution of Bangladesh contains a clear mandate on the part of the State to prevent gambling. Article 18 under the Fundamental Principles of State Policy confers upon the State a responsibility to “adopt effective measures to prevent prostitution and gambling”.[1] As we know Fundamental Principles of State Policy is not judicially enforceable. So, this provision is directory over the State’s legislative actions.

The primary law which regulates gambling activities in Bangladesh is the Public Gambling Act of 1867. The law dates back to British regime and this is the very first reason of weak punishments for gambling. The Act says the guilty under the Act shall not be liable in any case to a fine exceeding Tk 600, or to imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.[2] This Act also says, “as penalty for owning or keeping or having charge of common gaming-house shall be liable, on conviction before any magistrate to a fine not exceeding Tk200, or imprisonment of either description, as defined in the Penal Code for any term not exceeding three months.”[3]However, it also includes, “whoever is found in any such house, tent, room, space, or walled enclosure, playing or gaming with cards, dice, counters, money or other instruments of gaming, or is found there present for the purpose of gaming, whether playing for any money, wager, stake or otherwise, shall be liable, on conviction before any magistrate, to a fine not exceeding Tk100 or to imprisonment of either description, as defined in the Penal Code, for any term not exceeding one month.”[4]Another ordinance which deals with gambling is Dhaka Metropolitan Police (Amendment) Ordinance, 1976. The ordinance says, “Whoever assembles with others in a street or public place for gambling or wagering or joins any such assembly shall be punishable with fine which may extend to Tk 100.[5]According to Penal code 1860, “Whoever keeps any office or place for the purpose of drawing any lottery not being a State lottery or a lottery authorized by the Government shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both. And whoever publishes any proposal to pay any sum, or to deliver any goods, or to do or forbear doing anything for the benefit of any person, on any event or contingency relative or applicable to the drawing of any ticket, lot, number or figure in any such lottery shall be punished with fine which may extend to one thousand Taka”[6]

These are some laws that deal with gambling in Bangladesh which in mere sense is crystal clear that it is far more incompatible to cope with the recent phenomenon of gambling. If we closely examine the amount of fines and punishments under this Act, these amounts are so little that one may find it hilarious where millions of money is being deal by gambling.

A news of September, 2019 relating to casino raid can be useful to understand about our weak law.

law enforcement agencies detained and arrested nearly 200 people in September,2019 during a crackdown on illegal casinos and gambling establishments in Dhaka and elsewhere. But they have not filed any cases against them under the country’s existing “weak” gambling laws. Law enforcement officials and legal experts say that is because the existing laws are too old and inadequate to take exemplary action against those arrested for either running or participating in such acts. Faced with the dilemma and based on evidence collected during the raid, the law enforcement agencies were somewhat forced to charge the detainees and arrestees under narcotics, arms and money laundering acts. Law Minister Anisul Huq told reporters that they were considering updating the Public Gambling Act. “Because we were not aware that such gambling activities were taking place. We need to formulate an effective law to put an end to gambling.[7]

Here we can see, law makers were not even aware of gambling activities taking places. Law makers give importance to only trendy legal issues. So, it can be a reason to why they did not consider about the amendment of gambling laws. But this excuse cannot escape the necessity of amending or updating the laws. This also applies to online platform-based gambling.

The rapid digitalization of Bangladesh has made general people more familiar with online platform. As I mentioned in the introduction part, laws regarding gambling are only true for land-based gambling. There is no specific law against online gambling and people are using this flaw as their weapon. They are not afraid of online gambling as they do not fall within the Jurisdiction of Bangladeshi Laws. Although Bangladesh does have any legal site for gambling, there are many casino sites from other country that accept players from Bangladesh. In spite of gambling being illegal in Bangladesh, how are the people in Bangladesh getting the opportunity to gamble, be it using the sites of other countries? “Many Bangladeshis are playing various online gambling games such as Teen Patti Gold through which money is being laundered from their gaming accounts. Many individuals and organization have sprung up to buy and sell the "chips" (virtual coins used for Teen Patti gambling). These buy/sell transactions are mainly done through MFS accounts and are marketed through various social media in Bangladesh. Android and IOS platform-based mobile phone users of all ages including school, college and university-level students are becoming addicted to this virtual gambling day by day.”[8]

Though gambling is forbidden in Bangladesh, many people are practicing gambling in the disguise of virtual games provided in some chatting applications. The app builders firstly lure the users with free betting opportunities or offer them free credits. And when the users become addicted, they slowly start looting a huge amount of balance from them. User are bidding and winning or losing hundreds of thousands instantly. Players are getting so much addicted to this game that they don’t even think about quitting if they lose. This type of gambling is ruining the financial state and also the moral character of the youth as they can go to an intense extent to satisfy their addiction without even realizing that they are doing a wrong deed.

 World is changing day by day so its people and their minds. New things are being introduced. Various new types of gambling are being made to attract the gamblers. To cope with this changing situation laws should be updated and properly implemented to ensure Constitutional duty. Gambling is not an individual act. It should be solved by considering the overall social circumstances. Allowing gambling activities in Bangladesh destroys the spirit of our Constitution. So, it is high time government should take this phenomenon in consideration. In case of online gambling, ICT Act,2006 can also include provisions about online gambling.



[1] Article 18(2), The Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

[2] Section 13 of The Public Gambling Act,1867

 
[3] Section 3 of The Public Gambling Act,1867

[4] Section 4 of The Public Gambling Act,1867

[5] Section 92 of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (Amendment) Ordinance, 1976

[6] Section 294A of The Penal Code,1860

[7] Dhaka Tribune. 2019. How weak is our archaic gambling law?. [online] Available at: <https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/law-rights/2019/09/26/how-weak-is-our-archaic-gambling-law>

[8] The Business Standard. 2021. Money being laundered through online gambling: BFIU report. [online] Available at: <https://www.tbsnews.net/bangladesh/crime/money-being-laundered-through-online-gambling-bfiu-report-182425?fbclid=IwAR1Appy_lH67HHQLeNPT9NckuSHqIDfpE6XiBRPymaviT3R_jfLzRqko5aY>

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