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Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi Approves Ordinance Banning All Forms of Online Games

Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi Approves Ordinance Banning All Forms of Online Games
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  • Namita Ghosh October 8, 2022
  • 2 Minutes Read

Eleven days after the Tamil Nadu Cabinet approved a new ordinance to ban online games in the state, the State Governor, RN Ravi, signed the ordinance and approved it. According to media reports, the file was sent to Raj Bhavan on October 1, and the governor greenlit the ordinance on Friday, October 7. The same day the ordinance was published in the state gazette, effectively prohibiting all state residents from indulging in any form of real-money online games or facing legal consequences. At the same time, with online gaming being branded as an illegal activity, operating any site in the state or permitting players from the state to play has become an offence.

Expressing surprise and disappointment at the Tamil Nadu government’s move, the gaming sector’s leading self-regulatory body, All India Gaming Federation, issued a statement urging the state to reconsider its decision.

The legal proceedings for the ordinance are not complete, though. The state will now follow up by passing a bill for the same and make it permanent legislation after it is tabled and approved in the upcoming state assembly session starting October 17.

 

What the Ordinance Says

Taking a leaf out of the UK Gambling Act, the latest ordinance banning all forms of online games in Tamil Nadu defines online games of chance as:

> games that involve both an element of chance and an element of skill

> or a game that involves an element of chance that can be eliminated by superlative skill

> or a game that is presented as involving an element of chance

It classifies gaming operators as:

> local and non-local operators

> local operators can obtain a license to offer certain online games

> non-local operators are entirely banned from offering online games

> non-local operators are required to ensure geo-blocking, warning users about prohibition in the State

Anyone offering online games of chance as defined in the ordinance will face up to three years of Rigorous Imprisonment (RI), or a fine of up to ₹10 Lakhs, or both. Residents found playing the games with money face imprisonment of up to three months, a fine of up to ₹5,000 or both.

 

AIGF Urges Tamil Nadu Government to Reconsider

Reacting to the development, AIGF CEO Roland Landers stated – “The Tamil Nadu government has passed an ordinance that will result in banning most online games of skill, including rummy and poker. What this ordinance, in effect, does is treat and conflicts games of skill as gambling and games of chance. This is disappointing as it disregards the 6 decades of established legal jurisprudence and the recent judgment of the Madras HC which struck down a similar law.

Roland Landers
Roland Landers

 

As Landers underlined that ordinance undermines the August 2021 decision of Madras High Court that struck down a similar law, he expressed disappointment. He said that the AIGF had provided the state government with various consumer protection measures that stopped short of an outright ban. He added, “What is also surprising is that the State government has already appealed the judgment of Madras HC, and the SC had recently issued notices on the same. Instead of waiting for the SC judgment and in the meantime respecting the categorical decision by their own HC, they seem to have taken another unconstitutional decision which will eventually only benefit online gambling operators.”

The AIGF emphasised the legal jurisprudence of various Supreme Court judgments on online games in the past – “games of skill are not gambling, and offering of games of skill is a legitimate activity protected under the Indian Constitution.”

Landers added, “India is the fifth largest online gaming market globally, and skill-based gaming, a sunrise sector, is giving birth to an increasing number of unicorns within the country. The sector has been a strong financial contributor to the Indian economy even during an unprecedented period of slowdown and is further expected to generate revenues in excess of 5 billion by 2025. Any form of the ban will impact the overall business of a sector, as will the overall online skill gaming ecosystem due to the recent TN ordinance.”

Banning Online Games in Tamil Nadu – Quick Recap

This is the second ordinance passed by the state to ban online gaming. On November 2020, then-state Governor Banwarilal Purohit promulgated the government-approved ordinance prohibiting online gaming. Subsequently, the Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Act 2021 was introduced and passed in February 2021.

Following a hard-fought legal battle, on August 3, 2021, the Madras High Court struck the law down. However, the next day, State Law Minister S. Regupathy reiterated that the government was adamant about banning online games in the public interest. Last November, the state approached the Supreme Court against the Madras High Court order.

Earlier this year, the government also set up a Justice K Chandru-headed committee to formulate a new ordinance on online rummy, and on June 27, the committee submitted its report, recommending a complete ban on online rummy and other online games for stakes.

The government also called for public opinion on the issue, receiving a huge barrage of emails and submissions. Dr Sandip H Shah, a leading psychiatrist based out of Godhra, Gujarat, shared his research showing no direct link between suicides and online gaming.

The fresh ordinance comes at a time when the Supreme Court issued a notice on September 9 on a petition filed by the Tamil Nadu government challenging the Madras High Court’s judgment that had struck down the state’s previous attempt at banning online games like rummy and poker played in cyberspace with stakes. The court has asked skill-based gaming firms Junglee Games, Play Games24x7, Head Digital Works, and industry body All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) to file their response in four weeks.

Notwithstanding the developments in the Supreme Court, the Tamil Nadu government went ahead to table the ordinance banning online games. Now, with the State Cabinet, following the governor approving the same, real-money online gaming in the state is effectively illegal. However, with the decision of the Supreme Court still pending, it’s not all over for online gaming in Tamil Nadu yet.

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

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