New Delhi | The bill passed by the Karnataka legislature prohibiting online games of skill in the state, has come under a cloud, as the Kerala High Court on Monday quashed a Kerala government notification banning online rummy. This comes on the heels of the Madras High Court judgement that struck down the Tamil Nadu government’s blanket ban on online skill games.
In February, 2021, the Kerala Government through a notification issued under the Kerala Gaming Act prohibited online rummy. A petition was filed by several gaming companies, challenging this amendment. The judgement pronounced today by Justice TR Ravi of Kerala High Court, said the notification was arbitrary and violative of the right to trade and commerce and the right to equality guaranteed under the Indian Constitution.
In the Madras High Court judgement, the court observed that rummy and poker were games of skill. The court also noted that there was no difference between physical and online formats for games such as scrabble and chess. It is therefore wrong to assume that a game played online loses its element of skill.
The two consecutive High Court judgements further put the Karnataka bill under a huge amount of scrutiny. The Karnataka bill banning online games of skill had evoked a wide range of opposition from several industry and trade bodies. The powerful trade organization CAIT said that the bill threatens the thriving Indian gaming startup sector and will end up encouraging illegal offshore gambling and betting apps which operate in the online grey market.
IAMAI, the leading internet industry body, said that the bill may hurt Karnataka’s position as the country’s startup hub and lead to job and revenue losses. The Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS) said the Bill appears to be misguided since it penalises legitimate businesses by treating them at par with illegal online gambling, betting, and wagering platforms. The All-India Gaming Federation (AIGF) said that the bill is highly regressive and will be a huge setback to Karnataka’s reputation as a startup and tech hub.
The bill was sharply criticized in the Karnataka Legislative council where members said the bill does not distinguish between games of skill and games of chance. Former IT Minister of Karnataka, Priyank Kharge, tweeted that the bill has not been thought out by the government and that the State hasn’t bothered looking at the recent judgement which struck down TN Govt’s Police & Gaming Amendment, which is on the same line.
The bill has also evoked sharp condemnation from the gaming and esports community in India and Karnataka who have said that the bill will greatly affect the budding gaming community of the country.
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