The Indian state of Sikkim plans to issue three online gambling licences in 2010. Other states are expected to follow suit, opening up the Indian online gambling market.

The Himalyan state of Sikkim is planning to start the bidding process for online gambling licences within the next two weeks. Thirteen operators are bidding for three licences with the aim of being live by April 2010.

It is not clear if operators will only be allowed to take bets from gamblers in Sikkim but it seems likely that operators will only bid significant amounts if they can take bets from all of India as Sikkim only has a population of 600,000 people and their per capita income is low. It is unlikely that operators will be permitted to advertise their services outside Sikkim.

The Indian gambling market is estimated to be worth around US$60 billion per year. The market is largely run on a credit basis currently with illegal street bookmakers.

William Hill, Betfair, Bwin and 888.com are all expected to bid for the licences. Ladbrokes are said to be considering a bid but have not yet found a local partner - in order to enter the Indian market foreign companies must find a local partner.

Currently Indians can only legally gamble on either horseracing or in casinos in Sikkim and Goa. The Goan casino operators have recently increased entrance charges to their casinos tenfold to try and reduce the number of local Indians gambling in their premises.