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2020 was a mixed year for the online gaming sector in India. On the one hand, the COVID-19 induced pandemic led to an online poker boom, but on the other hand, two more south Indian states banned real-money online gaming. Tamil Nadu was among the states to criminalize online gaming. Governor Banwarilal Purohit had, on November 21, promulgated an ordinance banning online gaming, following the state government’s decision.
On February 4, an amendment Bill was introduced in the Tamil Nadu Assembly seeking to replace the ordinance, a move that the gaming industry was well aware was coming.
The Bill, aka The Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Act 2021, was introduced by the leader of the House and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam. The new Bill, just like the ordinance that it is seeking to replace, states that any person indulging in cyberspace gambling would be punished with a ₹5,000 fine and six months imprisonment. Those offering such online games in the state would be considered as running a common gaming house and would be punished with a fine of ₹10,000- and two-years’ imprisonment.
According to the statement of objects and reasons of the Bill, gaming using cards, dice, etc., in the form of betting or wagering has been banned in Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Salem, Tiruchirappalli, and Tirunelveli, by the Chennai City Police Act, 1888.
It further stated that playing online games that are addictive had developed manifold in recent times. Innocent people were being cheated, and increasing incidents of suicide had also been reported. To prevent such incidents and protect innocent people from the evils of online gaming, the government decided to ban wagering or betting in cyberspace.
The government decided to amend the Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, 1930 (Tamil Nadu Act III of 1930) and to extend the application throughout the state to make consequential amendments to the Chennai City Police Act, 1888 (Tamil Nadu Act III of 1888) and the Tamil Nadu District Police Act, 1989 (Central Act XXIV of 1859), said the Bill.
While it is clear that south Indian states are hell-bent on removing real-money online gaming from the region, the north-western state of Meghalaya became the third state in India, after Nagaland and Sikkim, that is on the verge of officially legalizing online gaming.
Cover Image courtesy: My Smart Price