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Online Poker & Rummy Banned in Karnataka as Govt Notifies Gaming Bill, Legal Challenge Imminent

Online Poker & Rummy Banned
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  • Namita Ghosh October 6, 2021
  • 3 Minutes Read

The writing was on the wall. Since last November, winds of a possible, all-pervasive ban on all forms of online gaming have been blowing in Karnataka. And now, it’s official. Two weeks after the Karnataka legislative assembly passed the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Bill, 2021, Governor Thawar Chand Gehlot’s assent on Monday. A day later, the Karnataka government notified the law by publishing it on the official gazette. With immediate effect, operating or playing any form of online games, including online poker, rummy, and fantasy games in Karnataka, is illegal and a criminal offense. Only wagering lotteries and horse racing have been left out from the purview of the ban.

Industry experts believe that such a blanket ban on online gaming is unlikely to sustain in Karnataka. A legal challenge is now imminent akin to the one in Tamil Nadu, where the online gaming ban was introduced by way of a new law and subsequently struck down by the Madras High Court.

In the meantime, as a direct impact of the move, most Indian poker, rummy, and fantasy gaming operators have restricted players from Karnataka on their site.

Adda52 notified us – “We would like to update you that the state of Nagaland, Sikkim, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Orissa & Telangana may prohibit a player from using the services offered on our website.”

Mobile Premier League (MPL) was another operator that has blocked users from Karnataka. MPL’s gaming app displayed messages to Karnataka residents saying – “Sorry! The law in your state does not permit you to play Fantasy Sports.”

We reached out to the CEO of All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), Roland Landers, for his comments. He said, “As the apex industry body, we have notified our member companies to block Karnataka by the law. However, we would like to reiterate our stand since legitimate online skill gaming businesses that have the right to trade have been worst impacted. The irony is that illegal offshore gambling operators will flourish.”

Roland Landers
Roland Landers

 

Commenting on the ban, legal gaming eagle, Jay Sayta said, “The Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act 2021 was published in the official gazette yesterday, i.e., on October 5, and has come into force with immediate effect. It prohibits staking or wagering of money of games of skill. All real-money gaming websites including poker, rummy, and fantasy sports have to lock and restrict users from Karnataka at present.”

 

Gaming Ban Likely to Be Challenged

Karnataka is the latest Indian state down South, after Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu, to ban online gaming. The ban is guaranteed to be challenged in court, like the ban in Tamil Nadu that was struck down by the Madras High Court on August 3.

According to Jay Sayta, there is a strong case for online skill-based gaming companies, and the ban will be challenged in court very soon. “This is going to be challenged in the Karnataka High Court in the next couple of weeks. We’ll have to wait and see what happens in the court. As of now, there is an immediate impact. Most of the companies have already stopped accepting or allowing players from Karnataka on their platforms as of yesterday.”

Jay Sayta
Jay Sayta

 

AIGF CEO Roland Landers said, “The industry will challenge this in court and seek legal recourse. We must remember the recent back-to-back positive judgments by the Honorable Kerala High Court and Madras High Court, consistently holding the stance that games of skill are not akin to gambling even if played for stakes.

Landers pointed out that the sector has been a strong financial contributor to the Indian economy even during an unprecedented slowdown. It needs the support of state governments to promote initiatives towards responsible gaming and recognition of the ‘Self-regulatory Framework’ created by the AIGF and the skill games council members for the industry.

As gaming operators prepare to take their case to court, users in the tech-savvy Karnataka will no longer be able to play poker, rummy, or the cash-rich fantasy games during the second leg of the IPL.

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