What do our laws say about gambling?

Gambling encompasses various concepts like wagering, betting, gaming etc. in different jurisdictions, but it essentially refers to a transaction of staking money or something of value on an event whose outcome is not within the control of the person. The predominant moral values of Bangladesh (which may or may not be rooted in religious perceptions) disapprove of gambling activities and the same is reflected in its laws.

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”. While this provision is not judicially enforceable, it has a directory authority over the State’s legislative actions.

The primary law which regulates gambling activities in Bangladesh is the Public Gambling Act of 1867. While the law dates back to the British regime, it is in line with the constitutional provision against gambling. Post-independence, the Act was amended in 1973 and subsequently in 1976 to exclude Metropolitan Areas which now regulate public gambling under the Dhaka and Chittagong Metropolitan Police Ordinances. The two Ordinances gives the police authority to penalise gambling activities in streets and other public places. As per the Ordinances, public places include public buildings and monuments whereas streets include ways to which the public has a right of access. The amendments also excluded lottery from the definition of gambling.

While the Metropolitan Police Ordinances penalise gambling in public places and streets, the Public Gambling Act prohibits the “owning or keeping, or having charge of common gaming-house”. Gaming is defined under the Act as “wagering or betting” except wagering or betting on race horses under certain conditions. Section 3 of the Act penalises a person for using or allowing to be used, any space for the purpose of facilitating a gaming house to a fine not up to two hundred taka, or imprisonment up to three months. 

The Act authorises a District Magistrate and District Superintendent of Police (or any officer authorised by him through a warrant) to search any facility on the basis of credible information, if it causes him to reasonably believe that a gaming house is situated in such a facility and seize the instruments of gaming found at the premises; a convicting Magistrate may also order for the destruction of the gaming instruments found therein. As per Section 6, any cards, dice, gaming table, boards or other instrument found at the premises is presumed to be evidence of the use of such premises as a gaming house. In case of conviction of any person owning or managing a gaming house, it is not necessary to prove that the persons engaged therein were playing for money, wager or stake. The Act also imposes a penalty of fine up to 100 taka or imprisonment up to one month on a person for being found in the gaming house for the purpose of gaming.

As can be seen, the existing laws of Bangladesh place stringent prohibitions on any gatherings or establishments that facilitate gambling. Allowing gambling businesses to function, therefore, will not only be in contravention to the laws, but also to the Constitution. However, as newer avenues of gambling open up, laws need to be updated and properly implemented to ensure that the constitutional duty to prevent gambling is upheld.

From Law Desk.


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