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The Latest Online Betting Legislation in India

The Latest Online Betting Legislation in India

Online betting has always been in the gray area in India. That’s because gambling activities in the country are regulated through the Public Gaming Act of 1867. Since this is a law passed during a time when the internet is non-existent, there is no mention of online gambling activities.

With that, Indians are technically free to bet on IPL or any other sports they enjoy online. Well, that’s as long as the sportsbook operators they are on aren’t based in India.

It is, after all, prohibited to run local online gambling operations in most parts of the country since only three states have legal gambling which are Goa, Sikkim, and Daman. Only a few states have imposed a ban on online gambling activities which include Telangana.

However, there is a chance that more states will be imposing a ban on online gambling including online sports betting like the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Tamil Nadu’s Move on Banning Online Gambling
The Tamil Nadu government seems to be sure about banning online gaming activities like online betting. Last year, the state passed an ordinance prohibiting online gambling and regulating online gaming.

However, this ordinance was stuck in pending approval from the governor and it lapsed on November 28, 2022.

Tamil Nadu’s push for online gambling ban has something to do with the rising suicide cases in their territory related to the activity.

Chief Minister MK Stalin recently shared recent suicides in the state related to online gambling. One of them is Riyaz Khan who was reported to have lost money in online rummy and was in deep debt that he decided to end his suffering by jumping into the Cauvery river in Namakkal.

Union IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw recently informed the Lok Sabha about how effective regulations should be in place.

Vaishnaw said, “We should have a central law and the regulation has to be very strict because society is impacted by addiction to online games, especially by online gambling.”

CM Stalin said that it’s a mystery why the Governor is still not giving his assent even if the bill was passed unanimously.

According to the governor’s office, the bill failed to factor in why the High Court struck down the initial ban on the said activities and that it failed to be clear which games are categorized as games of skills or chances.

The ordinance should also be a proportional ban instead of being a blanket one.

Karnataka Pushes to Ban Online Gambling
Another state that will likely impose a ban on online gambling activities is Karnataka. Like Tamil Nadu, its initial steps on prohibiting online gaming was also struck down by the High Court and was deemed unconstitutional.

The Karnataka government contended that cybercrime became a major issue in the state with the rise of online gaming. It also said that more people have committed suicides because of gambling problems. Many families have also been troubled.

After the ordinance was struck down, it has been reported that Karnataka will be working on a new draft that will factor in what the High Court said.

The Home Minister Araga Jnanendra said, “We would prefer to rectify these shortcomings, and work on an alternative draft that would stand in a court of law.”

“The government has received several requests from families of victims to ban online betting and gambling in online games. They say it has ruined them financially,” Jnanendra explained further.

He also added that they remain committed to ban online gaming with appropriate legislation in place.

The Law Commision chairman, Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, also the former chief of justice of Karnataka High Court, said that they are already deliberating on the legal aspects of online games.

Awasthi said, “We have decided to conduct an in-depth study and analysis of the draft rules, as to bring out a comprehensive report on the matter. Consequently, we urge you to kindly put on hold any proposal to finalize any draft laws in this regard while we are seized of the matter.”

There was already a draft released earlier in January. An official for MeitY said that any stakeholder can already give feedback as consultations are still open. He also said that there is no stopping the process, but suggestions are welcome.

Tamil Nadu and Karnataka’s appeals on banning online gambling may be heard in March. Supposedly, it was to be heard on February 14, 2023 but it was dropped from the cause list.

No reason was provided on this matter and the tentative date of the next hearing when it might be heard is on March 3, 2023.

For now, stakeholders can only wait and see what the High Courts will decide on the matter.

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