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The Deputy Chief Minister (DCM) of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, while answering questions by various MLAs, stated that laws outright banning real money online skill games could be struck down by the Supreme Court for violating the right to freedom of trade and commerce guaranteed by the constitution.
Last week, the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, Bhupesh Baghel, chaired a cabinet meeting which approved the Chhattisgarh Gambling (Prohibition) Bill 2022, curtailing the online betting menace that is rampant in the state.
In the last week of December, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) seized another ₹42.21 Crores from 1,548 bank accounts in connection with the money laundering investigation related to the mobile gaming application e-nuggets.
Maharashtra DCM Devendra Fadnavis Favours Regulation of Online Skill Games
The Deputy Chief Minister (DCM) of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis’ outlook towards the online real-money gaming industry is positively rational rather than orthodox. In the last week of December 2022, while replying to a starred question and other supplementary questions raised by several Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) on the issue of increasing lottery centres, online gaming platforms, and betting websites. He said banning skill-based online gaming would be against the law.
Fadnavis, the head of Maharashtra’s Home Affairs Department, notified the MLAs that the issues of illegal lottery centres will be appropriately dealt with as and when any information is received. He also mentioned if the lottery or gambling parlour resumes operating at the same location for the second time, the negligent or erring police officials who allow gambling activities to go unabated will be taken to task.
Speaking of online skill games being played for real money, Fadnavis rationally explained the distinction between ‘games of skill‘ and ‘games of chance’ laid down by the Supreme Court. He also shared how any law banning such games of skill may be susceptible to being struck down by the Supreme Court as violative of the right to freedom of trade and commerce guaranteed by the constitution.
He then provided a similar example saying, “Alcohol is prohibited as per the concerned Act, but we do grant licenses under it because some businesses run illegally otherwise. So if they are regulated through a prohibitory framework and run legally, their negative impact on society is diminished.”
Following a progressive but cautious approach, the DCM notified that online gaming should not be banned. However, it is mandatory to caution users that these online games may be habit-forming and financially risky. Still, a massive social outreach campaign informing people about the ill effects of ‘games of chance’ is much needed.
Chhattisgarh Cabinet Approves The Chhattisgarh Gambling (Prohibition) Bill 2022 To Curtail The Online Betting Menace
On December 31, 2022, the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, Bhupesh Baghel, chaired a cabinet meeting that approved the Chhattisgarh Gambling (Prohibition) Bill 2022. The remediatory step was much required in the state as online gambling and betting run deep into the Chhattisgarh society through Mahadev Book and its variants.
The illegal betting portals are reportedly run by Chhattisgarh natives from Dubai. This makes Chhattisgarh different from the other states which primarily target online poker and rummy operations.
The Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly election is scheduled to be held in or before November 2023. The Baghel government is under pressure to address the online betting menace that prompted the government to contemplate legislation, which will be tabled at the upcoming winter session.
The government still needs to release the draft law to the public domain, and it is still being determined if it will also target online skill games like poker and rummy.
ED Freezes Another ₹42.21 Crores In The e-nuggets Gaming App Fraud Case
In the last week of December, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) informed that it had frozen 1,548 bank accounts in connection with the money laundering investigation related to the mobile gaming application e-nuggets. The bank accounts are claimed to have funds worth ₹42.21 Crores which is almost 40 percent of the ₹110.76 Crores the ED has so far seized or frozen in the case.
Last year in September, the authorities of the Federal Bank lodged a complaint in the court of Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) against the app owners, Aamir Khan and others. Following this, the Kolkata Police entered the investigation after registering an FIR against the prime suspect, Khan.
According to the ED, Khan’s primary motive for launching the gaming application was “defrauding the public.” After collecting substantial amounts from the users, withdrawal from the app was disallowed under various pretexts. After that, all the data, including profile information, was “wiped off from the app servers.”
The agency alleged that multiple accounts were used for laundering money. And the proceeds were also used to purchase cryptocurrencies.
Khan is currently behind bars, undergoing investigation and questioning. Earlier, the ED had arrested one Romen Agarwal on his involvement in inter/intra country transactions, and a chargesheet has been filed in the case.
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