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Karnataka bill seeks to ban online gambling ‘vice’, even skill games will not be spared

Punjab Tribune Bureau | October 12, 2021 05:09 PM
https://www.10cric.com/

Karnataka bill seeks to ban online gambling ‘vice’, even skill games will not be spared

 

The number of Indian states now attempting to put an end to online gambling activities via legislation is growing. Karnataka is the latest to join the ranks of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, with the filing of the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Bill, 2021, in the legislative assembly.

 

Karnataka wants to ‘wean’ citizens off gambling ‘vice’

 

The Karnataka Police (Amendment) Bill 2021 is aiming to outlaw all forms and nature of wagering, betting and gambling—except lottery and horse race—in the state with a goal of enhancing the punishment for gaming “to wean them away from the vice of gambling.”

If passed, it will amend nine sections and a number of subsections of the Karnataka Police Act, 1963, paving the way for the ban of online games involving betting and wagering, be it on mobile apps, mobile phones, computers, and all other platforms. This means that online games that involve money in some form will be prohibited in the state, and the offense will be non-bailable.

Home Minister Araga Jnanendra was quoted by ThePrint saying the state government “has data on how many people have been affected by online betting and gambling during the pandemic and this bill hopes to put an end to it.”

“Our intention is to ban all games that involve profiting, betting and stakes. We have taken lessons from the Madras High Court’s decision to strike down similar legislation in Tamil Nadu and have changed our bill accordingly,” according to the home minister.

Bill may affect popular online games—even games of skill

 

The Karnataka bill did not specify which games or gaming companies that will be hit hard if the bill passed by the state legislature; however, it’s expected that Indian casinos online will be among those that will be affected, alongside popular casino games and even games of skill will not be spared.

Mobile games have been enjoying a steady growth in popularity in recent years, particularly skill-based games like Andar Bahar, Teen Patti, and Rummy. In fact, those three games have been described as “the anchors of casual Indian entertainment” by an ENV Media study, which profiled Indian product preferences based on proprietary data.

According to the study, “Such traditional card games have heavily influenced the local mobile gaming industry and social networks, with their demand and acceptance not likely to decrease. There are certain Western games with an Indian touch which are quite well accepted. But Indians love desi games first and foremost. These are ‘family’ games that can be played and enjoyed with people of all age groups and players.”

This brings us to an important point: the Karnataka gambling law is all set to “wean” gambling off its citizens, but it’s facing one of the many major challenges—that Indians love to play, be it for casual entertainment or real money gaming. And having a bill outlawing gambling may have a reverse effect on the state.

There are lessons that can be learned from other states’ plight to outlaw online gambling. Take Tamil Nadu, for example. Its attempt to curb the rising popularity of online gambling in the state was shut down by the Madras High Court, which upheld the Supreme Court’s interpretation of “gambling” to mean only games of chance, noting that rummy is considered purely a game of skill.

The key here is not to outlaw online gambling activities, which will only result in the more illegal gambling activities in the country, but to develop uniform regulation that will cover India’s gambling industry. Industry stakeholders, including law firm Touchstone Partners and partner ENV Media, are already working towards reviewing and addressing the country’s online gambling legal landscape.

“We are hopeful that the Indian regulatory framework will be amended to encourage additional participation, not least because as a country we have much to gain from regulating activities such as gambling and betting,” Uday Walia, partner at Touchstone Partners,said.

 

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