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Goa CM Pramod Sawant Assures Action Against Online Gaming Apps

Pramod Sawant
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  • Attreyee Khasnabis July 26, 2022
  • 4 Minutes Read

On Friday, July 22, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant announced that his government would be taking punitive action against online gaming apps after Congress MLA Sankalp Amonkar raised the issue during the Zero Hour of the Legislative Assembly. The announcement came a day before the GST Council’s Group of Ministers (GoM) met in Bengaluru and Goa, noting the industry’s concerns and for a better understanding of horse racing, online gaming, and casino sectors.

Pramod Sawant
Pramod Sawant

 

MLA Amonker claimed online gaming was “dangerous” for the youth. During the Zero Hour discussion, Amonkar said, “Many governments have banned it, and hence, the Goa government should also ban online Rummy Circle gaming.”

Sankalp Amonkar
Sankalp Amonkar

 

He further added: “Rummy, three cards, pokers, etc. are dangerous. These are easily accessible to the youth. They are addicted to these games. Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Assam, Orissa, Nagaland have banned online gambling.”

Amonkar said that unemployed youths and college-going students fall prey to these games. “One can start playing these games at ₹5 to range of ₹10,000. Even one can extend limit above ₹40,000 per day. It is a complete scam. The government is not monitoring it.” Amonkar said.

“One of my close friends’ son lost ₹5 Lakhs in just three months. It is very dangerous,” he added.

“I will take action on it,” was Sawant’s response.

 

The Indian States That Have Legalized Online Gaming

While MLA Amonkar is correct to point out that many states have banned (or tried to ban) online gaming, he missed out on the few states that have, over time, legalized and regulated the real-money gaming industry.

It is imperative to point out that Amonkar was incorrect in saying that Nagaland was one of the states that had banned online gaming. It was, in fact, one of the first states to legalize online games under the “Nagaland Prohibition of Gambling and Promotion and Regulation of Online Games of Skill Bill, 2015,” which was passed in March 2016. Under the Act, games such as poker, rummy, and fantasy sports have been differentiated from gambling, irrespective of the stakes or profit elements involved.

After Goa, Sikkim is the only other Indian state with legal casinos. Under the “Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Rules, 2009,” the state legalized online gaming, including online poker. The state government has even issued licenses to operators seeking to offer online gambling services to the state. In April 2014, the Union Home Ministry gave its nod to the Sikkim government to regulate online betting activities as long as this did not extend to include services offered in other states and Union Territories in India. On July 30, 2015, the Sikkim government amended and passed the “Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2015”.

Meghalaya is the third northeastern state in India, after Sikkim and Nagaland, to regulate online gambling. Last January, the state cabinet passed an ordinance to regulate the online and offline gaming industry. In February 2021, the government nullified the “Meghalaya Prevention of Gambling Act, 1970”, and the subsequent rules for the approved legislation, i.e., the “Regulation of Gaming Rules, 2021”, envisaged a licensing regime for not just online but also offline games.

 

High Courts Overturn Blanket Bans on Online Gaming by State Governments

Legal bans on real money online gaming have been the trend since 2017, when Telangana became the first south Indian state to impose such a ban. Andhra Pradesh got the ball rolling in 2020 by banning online gaming in September, and Tamil Nadu joined the bandwagon within a month. In September of the following year, Karnataka too joined the party.

When the bans were appealed in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, the High Courts of both states stepped in to overturn the blanket bans, urging the state governments to regulate the industry instead of outright banning it.

Both state governments have challenged the High Courts’ decision in the Supreme Court. The matters are currently sub judice.

 

Will Goa be the Next State to Ban Online Gaming?

This trope of using the tragic deaths of impressionable youths to further political agendas has been used repeatedly. Sadly, while politicians have quickly realized how online gaming addiction can be used as a political campaign to contest elections, their only solution has been to impose a blanket ban on the industry, not regulate it.

While CM Sawant has announced his intention to ‘take action,’ it does not mean an overall ban on the domain. Goa is home to the largest legal casino operations in the country. It would be odd if the state’s CM decides to ban online gaming, given that live gaming forms an integral part of the state’s economy and is also a major tourist attraction.

This conundrum takes us back to Advocate P.S. Raman‘s statement when challenging the Tamil Nadu government’s outright ban on real-money gaming in July 2020, “How can an event which is not a crime in the physical world become a crime in the virtual world?”

This is a developing story. Keep following PokerGuru for the latest updates.

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