The entire epic of Mahabharata revolves around the episode of how Yudhishthira, the eldest Pandava son, the epitome of integrity and honesty fell prey to the temptation of gambling and betting everything from his kingdom to his brothers including himself and finally his wife and lost everything. The incident was in a way the biggest driving factor for the famous battle of Mahabharata. Ancient India is marked with many such gambling incidents. Rolling dices was a hobby of the intellectuals, good or bad. From Chandragupta to King Ashoka everyone had infamously indulged in the game of gambling. Now when Indian cricketers face the disgrace of fixing matches, one wonders if gambling is an ancient vice Indians have been falling prey to.
It first started with the seeds of vibhitaka tree, which has five flat faces, and was then called pasha. It was played by rolling the pasha on a board, turn wise by the players, after each player bet money or material. Ancient Indians were so passionate about the game that they often lost even their shirts while playing. The game had other forms too like the chess, so famously played by Chanakya or the game of cards. In 15th century, the game of gambling was legalized by the government and were played in gambling houses, regulated by the government to ensure a fair play. Those who lost had to submit their loses duly to the regulating authority.
From all these evidences from India’s history, one can actually say that it all started in India. Board games, chess or cards that are played across the world in modern times often have Indian symbols in them. The game has however diverged into many other forms and are more famously and collectively called casinos now. Casinos are house of gambling and many other betting games. Generally built along with hotels and resorts, they deal with huge amounts of money. While in some countries it is illegal, some countries have gone ahead and legalized the business of casinos because of the huge employment and revenue that it generates. India too houses some of the very famous casinos in and around Goa. Although, it is very ironic that in India, gambling is illegal by the Public Gambling Act of 1867, the penalty of prohibiting which is a fine of upto Rs 200 or imprisonment of 3 months, which is very petty compared to the scale of money involved in the modern day gambling games. Not only in casinos, gambling is very popular in electronic mediums too.
Like our forefathers bet on the cocks in the cock fighting games, we go on betting on the cricket teams and other such games of chances. With a history of 4000 years, it is very unlikely that India is going to stop soon, legal or illegal.