Govt to regulate Virtual Games like Online Rummy, Spartan Poker, Ace2Three: Madras HC

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Judgement:

The Madras High Court raised concerns over why the State does not have a law to regulate virtual games and online gambling and said that there should be a regulatory body to monitor and regulate legal gaming, both in the real and virtual spaces.

Facts of the case:

The petitioner, D.Siluvai Venance had participated in gambling by way of playing cards in a public place. The case boiled down to whether the game had taken place in a “common gaming house” under Section 12 of the Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, 1930.

The petitioner claimed to have not participated in the game at all  was found in a thorny bush, the Court found that it could not be said that any gambling act had taken place in a “common gaming house.” As such, the case against the petitioner was quashed.

However, Justice Pugalendhi took an interest in the allied issue of why online gambling has not been restricted, while real-world gambling has been banned.

Interpretation of law:

The Court noted that online services such as RummyPassion, Nazara, LeoVegas, Spartan Poker, Ace2Three, PokerDangal, Pocket52, My11Circle, and Genesis Casino are mushrooming and several advertisements are appearing in almost all the social media and websites.

In its order it said that these advertisements were mostly targeting unemployed youth, inducing them to play such games in the hope of earning money comfortably. The Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Law and Order, filed a status report in which he stated that there was a growing addiction for online gaming/gambling, particularly among youngsters, which was causing financial crises in families.

Online gaming companies in India are now required to comply with multiple laws, both Central and State, but most are not, given the techno-legal requirements of different laws of India. He admitted that there is no rule in Tamil Nadu at present to regulate and license online skill games such as rummy, bridge, nap, poker and fantasy sports.

Conclusion:

The single-judge bench of Justice B Pugalendhi stated that the Court is not against the virtual games, but, the anguish of this Court is that there should be a regulatory body to monitor and regulate the legal gaming activities, be it in the real world or the virtual world.

“A comprehensive regulatory framework by a regulatory body is necessary to regulate the online sports and to curb any illegal activities as well. In fact, such regulation of online sports would encourage investment in the sector, which could lead to technological advancements as well as generation of revenue and employment,” the court added.

“This Court hopes and trusts that this Government shall take note of the present alarming situation and pass suitable legislation, thereby, regulating and controlling such online gaming through the license, of course, keeping in mind the law of the land as well as the judicial precedents in this regard. Needless to say that if the Government intends to pass legislation in this regard, all the stakeholders should be put in the notice and their views should be ascertained,” said the Court.

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