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The COVID-19 led lockdown may have led to a spurt in online gaming across the country, but the storm of rising political opposition towards the sector is blowing out of proportion down South.
After Puducherry, Tamil Nadu has joined the bandwagon of Southern states that are considering enforcing a blanket ban on online rummy and all other forms of real-money online gambling. On Thursday, the state Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, announced that the state government is considering banning online gambling.
Talking to media persons in the wake of increasing reports of suicides by people who had lost money to gaming, Palaniswami stated that online gambling was destroying youth’s lives and pushing them to end their life. He assured that those who “conduct and indulge in online gambling” were criminals and will be brought in soon.
Palaniswami said that the government has already conveyed the same to the Madras High Court, pointing out that three people have committed suicide in the last four days after losing significant sums playing online rummy.
Trouble Brewing in the Southern States
The Tamil Nadu CM’s statement comes in the wake of mounting pressure on state governments in the Southern part of the country to reign in online rummy and other forms of real-money gambling.
While Telangana was one of the first Southern states to ban online gaming through an ordinance in 2017, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court had asked the Tamil Nadu government in July to consider the legalization and regulation of the sector.
In August-end, a fresh PIL was filed before the court sought a ban on all online rummy sites with investments from foreign companies.
Following Telangana’s footsteps, the YS Jaganmohan Reddy-led government in Andhra Pradesh enforced a similar ordinance placing a blanket ban on rummy and online gambling in September.
Last month, state politician and PMK party founder Dr. S Ramadoss cried foul over the rising suicides attributed to gambling before the Union government, seeking that the Centre should ban online gaming. Days later, Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy also urged the Union Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to ban online rummy and other gaming sites all across the country.
Increasing the troubles for the online gaming sector, a recent PIL submitted in the Madras High Court has brought attention to the suicide deaths by people after losing money on gaming apps. Hearing the PIL earlier this week, the Madras High Court has issued notices to Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli and BCCI Chief and former Indian cricket team captain Sourav Ganguly for endorsing fantasy sports sites. They even pulled up The Online Rummy Federation (TORF), an industry for online rummy.
In another petition filed by one S. Muthukumar, the court issued notice to rummy company PlayGames24x7, central and state government bodies. At the same time, TORF was added as a respondent to the petition suo moto.
Clearly, the recent PILs have unleashed a fresh wave of opposition to online gaming, propelling a call for a ban from the political machinery in the Southern states. The fact is, online gambling in India is mostly an unregulated market. The domain will continue to remain a grey area unless the government moves ahead to bring in a licensed regime.