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Amid mounting political pressure to regulate the online gaming sector, the Tamil Nadu government has set up a committee for promulgating an ordinance on online rummy. The government took the decision following an incident on June 6 when a 29-year-old Chennai resident allegedly committed suicide after losing 20 sovereigns of gold jewelry and ₹3 Lakhs in online rummy.
The incident caused an outcry, prompting Chief Minister MK Stalin to hold a meeting in the secretariat on June 9. The next day, the government appointed Justice K Chandru, a retired Madras High Court judge, to head the panel to look into regulating the sector.
The committee has been tasked to study the adverse effects of online rummy and submit a report within two weeks. Basis the report, the state government intends to promulgate the ordinance.
A government presser stated – “Tamil Nadu continues to witness suicides after the individuals fell prey to the online games and lost money…Based on the committee’s report, an ordinance would be promulgated, considering the need to find a solution to this issue at once. It would be a model for other states to follow.”
The government’s decision comes at a time when it has already challenged the Madras High Court order dated August 2021, overturning the state’s online gaming ban. In November 2020, the Tamil Nadu government promulgated an ordinance to ban all forms of real-money gaming in the state. The move was followed by a bill banning all forms of real-money online gaming by bringing in the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Bill, 2021, the very legislation which the Madras High Court struck down.
While the state’s appeal is yet to be listed before the Supreme Court, the spate of recent suicides has sent the state into political turmoil, raising an urgency for the government to act.
The Committee & Its KRA
According to the government, the number of internet users is rising, and so are those playing online rummy. Tamil Nadu has a significant share of rummy users in India.
The state government-formed committee is being headed by a retired judge, Justice K Chandru. S Sankararaman from IIT Madras, Lakshmi Vijayakumar, a renowned psychiatrist and founder of Sneha, an NGO that works towards the prevention of suicide, and ADG (Police) Vinit Dev Wankhede are the other nominated members of the committee.
The committee will work on the following Terms of Reference (ToR):
> identifying potential risks of online games, like financial loss, suicide
> exploring the dangers of these games with relevant data
> identifying the impact of advertising on the community and how to restrain it
Reactions of the Opposition & Gaming Sector
Reacting to the suicide incident, the opposition party PMK president Anbumani Ramadoss staged a protest at Egmore, criticizing the DMK government for not bringing in legislation to ban online gambling. He lauded the government’s decision to form a committee but pointed out that a ban on online gaming is long overdue.
“The PMK and its founder Dr. S. Ramadoss have been protesting against it for the last seven years. We won’t tolerate this anymore. We demand an immediate ban,” he said.
Ramadoss emphasized, “Nothing is going to be achieved in the Supreme Court if the State government is going to appeal [in favour of] the same law [that was quashed]”.
He said, “Before the State government banned online gambling in November 2020 through an ordinance and later by a law in February 2021, around 60 suicides [as a result of online gambling] were recorded. Between November 2020 and August 2021, there were no deaths. Since the day the ban was overturned in August 2021, around 23 persons have taken their own lives. Law Minister Regupathy had said a law would be enacted, but he changed his position later and said the High Court’s verdict would be challenged in the Supreme Court. Online gambling is affecting families from all economic strata.”
Supporting the government’s move to regulate online gaming, The E-Gaming Federation (EGF), an organization representing skill gaming, demanded that the state committee on online gaming should have the representation of the gaming sector.
While the state has made its intention clear of bringing in fresh legislation to ban online rummy and other real-money games, we have to wait and watch to see what the Justice Chandru-headed committee submits in its report.