In today’s era, people from every generation are hooked up to their mobile screens. It was bound to happen as technology has embedded thousands of features in a single handset. Not only it is getting people addicted but has also become one of the major sources of revenue, especially through online gaming.
There have been constant steps by the Indian subcontinent’s Police to curb the revenue generated by online gaming and betting. Though majorly these curbing steps have been struck down by the Indian Courts. The Courts have never ignored the fact that it is a ‘game of skill’ and not a ‘game of chance’. Recently, Karnataka High Court has joined the bandwagon of Courts that have struck down attempts to restrict online gaming.
Online gaming and betting are major sources of revenue. And India is a huge market for online games. Before Covid crippled the world, China was a leading market in video games with 720 million gamers. In the year 2020, China generated a revenue of $44 Billion through online gaming.
On the other hand, India is the hope for the gaming world as India’s market is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 20 per cent. The sector has the potential to contribute a major chunk to the digital economy. Through online gaming, the Indian Government’s target of a $1 Trillion Digital Economy can be achieved by 2025.
The year 2021 was known for one other thing apart from the second wave of Corona Virus and that was bans on online gaming. Many states of the Indian subcontinent passed laws and made amendments to impose a ban on online gaming platforms.
In the last two years, Indian states like Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Telangana have placed restrictions on online gaming. The main target of these state administrations was the monetary funds associated with online gaming. These restrictions were aimed at stamping out gambling.
After the imposition of these restrictions in the state of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala, the All India Gaming Federation took it to the court where the Judiciary squashed all attempts to restrict online gaming.
Karnataka High Court joins the League
It seems that the Indian Courts believe that the restrictions laws imposed by the different states will cripple the growing Indian Gaming Industry. After Tamil Nadu and Kerala High Courts, Karnataka High Court has joined the league.
In the Junglee Games vs State of Tamil Nadu, the Madras High Court quashed the ban imposed by the state that targeted rummy and poker and clarified that games of skill can be played online for stakes, as they cannot be categorized as betting or gambling.
In contrary to restrictions imposed by the other states, the state of Karnataka imposed a blanket ban on all online games involving monetary stakes through amendment in the Karnataka Police Act, 1963. This law sought to ban all formats of online gaming i.e., wagering, betting, gambling etc.
The punishment for violations under this Act included imprisonment for three years and a penalty up to Rs. 1 Lakh.
However, the amendments were quashed by the Karnataka High Court. The judgment was announced by a division bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Krishna S Dixit. The court struck down the offending provisions of the Karnataka Act and not the whole act. However, gates are open for the state to introduce new legislation to regulate gambling or betting in the state.
India needs ‘Regulations’ and not ‘Restrictions’
Gambling in India is currently governed by colonial law The Public Gambling Act of 1867. This act prohibits all common gaming houses from indulging in games of chance. This act however leaves out the games of skill.
The Central Governments and the Supreme Court has accepted that India needs to update its betting laws. It is a state subject in India. India and its states need to chalk out the framework of laws that can govern online gaming and bet in India.
India is a growing market in terms of online gaming. The revenue generated by this sector has the potential to convert India’s dream of a Digital Economy into reality. All that is needed is ‘regulation’ and recognition of ‘Game of Skill’.