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Even though a traditional favorite among the masses, the card game of rummy has been increasingly facing legal, and government-issued challenges in recent years. Last July, we had reported how the YSR Congress-led state government in Andhra Pradesh was considering imposing a statewide ban on real-money rummy. While rummy continues to enjoy legal support in the state, for now, fresh political voices demanding a ban on online rummy have jolted the industry.
According to the latest reports, the BJP unit of Andhra Pradesh, has raised demands for banning online betting games like rummy in the state. Last Friday, the Vice-President of the state BJP unit, S. Vishnuvardhan Reddy wrote to Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy on this issue.
The BJP Vice-President reportedly exhorted CM Reddy to follow the footsteps on the Telangana government that had banned online rummy and other real-money card games in 2017. Claiming that online gaming companies are luring youth with attractive adverts by promising them lucrative returns on gaming, Vishnuvardhan Reddy said that such youngsters were then resorting to criminal activities to fuel their addiction. Reddy further stated that such actions were causing parents to worry about the future of their children.
Joining Vishnuvardhan Reddy, former BJP Vice-President, Somu Veerraju has also demanded a prohibition on online rummy.
The demand comes at a time when the COVID-19 led lockdown has exponentially increased the player traffic on online rummy sites.
While this seems to be a region-specific call, it`s worth noting that BJP is also at the helm of the union government. There’s no saying if the anti-rummy demand will snow-ball into a much bigger nation-wide issue that could spell doom for the entire real money gaming industry.
The interest in rummy is immense in the southern states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala. However, in 2017, the Telangana government delivered a significant blow to the industry by introducing two ordinances, banning all online real-money games, including rummy. As expected, this move was challenged by the rummy operators in court. Still, the bill was subsequently passed by the state legislative assembly, and it even got the approval of President Ram Nath Kovind.
The rummy industry was delivered another setback in January last year when the Kerala High Court, even after declaring that rummy was a game of skill, categorized it as gambling and illegal under the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960 if played for real money.
This is not the first time that rummy has evoked political opposition in Andhra Pradesh. In March 2018, the then state Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu had hinted at a ban on card games like rummy and poker. Naidu admitted that card games improved focus and coordination but could be harmfully addictive.
Last year, soon after the Reddy-led government took over, the state Tourism Minister Muttamsetti Srinivasa Rao (aka Avanthi Srinivas) demanded a ban on real-money online rummy during a conference. Ordering a clampdown on card rooms and rummy clubs, CM Reddy promised to look into the possibility of bringing in legislation for banning online rummy.
The fact is, the game of rummy has enjoyed a favorable legal premise in Andhra Pradesh under several landmark judgments. A 1967 Supreme Court judgment in the State of Andhra Pradesh vs. K Satyanarayana matter is a landmark judgment that settled once and for all that rummy is a game of skill. The Supreme Court ruling was supported by another Supreme Court judgment in 1996, in the Dr. KR Lakshmanan vs. State of Tamil Nadu case.
In November 2015, Justice AV Sesha Sai of the Andhra Pradesh & Telangana High Court while hearing a writ petition by several card gaming clubs had ruled that law authorities cannot interfere with the lawful conduct of rummy in their premises.
The end verdict is that the government will have to introduce new legislation if it intends to ban offline and online rummy in Andhra Pradesh. Even as the entire country is grappling with the COVID-19 crisis, rising voices of protest by the BJP may just send the YS Jagamohan Reddy-led government scuttling to expedite the legislative process it had promised to take up.