A 37-year-old man was found dead in his home in Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India. He committed suicide over gambling debt with his latest online gambling session resulting in a total debt loss of 20 lakh ($25,656). He is the latest victim of gambling-related harm in the country with India currently at crossroads as to how to regulate what seems to be an increasingly unchecked gambling industry that is operating without a license.
Offshore gambling has been prevalent in India where only two states allow online gambling in some form and a third one is mulling a more liberal approach. The victim was married and was a father of two. According to the police, the man became heavily addicted to gambling with his debt mounting continuously and resorting to wagering personal items, such as his smartphone to continue.
On Thursday last week, the man and his wife had a fight after his spouse confronted him about his gambling addiction. She found her husband dead on Friday morning in his room and called authorities who took his body to Government Stanley Hospital.
(Un)timely Government Response
The news about a new suicide caused by unchecked online gambling has understandably worried lawmakers and various organizations. PMK president Anbumani Ramadoss has urged the government of Tamil Nadu, another Indian state, to act against the continuous sprawl of gambling that is ruining people’s lives.
Ramadoss said in a recent statement that at least 24 people had ended their own lives over gambling debts in the past 10 months. The governments of different states have acknowledged the need to act swiftly, but they are not very likely – or capable of doing so. Quick measures are usually not the stuff of Indian politics which is often compared to glacial progress.
Nevertheless, Ramadoss insists that measures must be enacted within a week. Previously, a mother of two ended her life with over $550,000 in gambling debt. She became addicted to the activity during the pandemic and was unable to stop even though her family tried to intervene.
The Rule-Breaking Must Stop
As these cases are becoming more frequent there is finally some willingness to begin addressing the issues one by one. Eliminating the offshore gambling industry could be only achieved through the smart and timely regulation of the gambling market.
Prohibition is hardly the key to solving India’s problems. In fact, offshore gambling websites welcome the lack of regulatory framework as they have hardly anyone to compete against, and zero obligation to prevent suicide caused by excessive gambling.
One positive change was announced last week when the Indian I&B Ministry ordered media to stop pushing unregulated gambling ads on their pages – both digitally and analytically. This may seem like small fry, but it’s important. For years, media could advertise unregulated brands under the nose of authorities who were happy to focus on raids against physical gambling dens but ignore the most blatant offense of all.
Winning the gambling industry from the unregulated sector though would be a long fight that would require politicians to put aside their prejudice and avoid myopic and inefficient solutions. Legalizations should come for the Indian gambling sector for such tragedies to be avoided.