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As expected, in a major blow to the online gaming in the state of Telangana, the state’s legislative council has finally ratified and passed the Telangana Gaming (Amendment) Bill, 2017 on Wednesday (November 15). The Bill was passed by the lower house of the legislature on November 13, after all major political parties backed the government’s move to ban online gaming and games of skill like rummy, poker etc.
The state of Telangana had issued two ordinances several months ago to amend Telangana’s Gaming Act of 1974. The first i.e. Telangana State Gaming (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 made online betting and gambling illegal while adding a new definition for “cyber space” in the gaming legislation. The second amendment deleted Section 15 of the Gaming Act of 1974 that exempted ‘games of skill’ from the ambit of gambling.
In a brief statement, State Home Minister Naini Narshimha Reddy explained the features of the newly passed Bill and stated the government’s view on gambling as a bad influence on society. He pointed out that the state government has raided and shut down many gambling clubs over the past three years.
The minister added that by way of the current amendments, all games (including games of skill) that involve money have been included under the ambit of gambling and have been made cognizable and non-bailable offences. Reddy also added that several Hyderabad headquartered companies are promoting online rummy and making crores of rupees of profits while ruining women, children, college-goers and teenagers.
Under the said Bill, ‘gaming offenders’, i.e. those who have committed or abetted offences under the Telangana Gaming Act will now be subject to draconian preventive detention provisions and any person who is accused of committing a ‘gaming offence’ could be detained by an order of the Commissioner of Police or District Magistrate for a period up to one year, without any trial or bail. However, such an order by the state government authorities is subject to ratification by an Advisory Board of jurists nominated by the state government.
Congress Member of Legislative Council (MLC) Ponguleti Sudhakar Reddy even referred to a recent incident where a gambling ring was busted in Marriott Hotel with nearly ₹80 lakhs seized from one person. Reddy said that the Bill should also try to prevent access to gambling websites using Virtual Private Network (VPN) and other similar means.
Meanwhile, TRS MLC Karne Prabhakar also emphasized that the government should try to completely abolish cricket betting along with online matka run by a few Mumbai-based companies.
That’s not all as senior BJP leader and MLC Naraparaju Ramchander Rao asked the government to make the amendments foolproof to make sure that no online rummy company circumvents the legislative provisions to continue operations.
Since the Gaming Amendment Bill has been passed by both houses of the legislature, it is now expected to be approved by the Governor in the next few days. After the Governor indicates his assent, the Bill will become a law.