Karnataka HC stays single judge bench’s interim order permitting horse racing & betting in Bangalore Turf Club despite state govt’s license non-renewal

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The Karnataka High Court stayed a June 18 single-judge order that had temporarily allowed the Bangalore Turf Club (BTC) to conduct on-course and off-course horse racing and betting. The Division Bench of Chief Judge NV Anjaria and Judge KV Aravind issued the stay on Saturday, responding to a writ appeal filed by the State government.

As reported by Bar and Bench, the stay was pronounced after the court concluded that the State had presented a strong case, suggesting that the refusal to grant a license for horse racing and betting was justified. “The order of the single-judge is hereby suspended and stayed. The respondent-original petitioner club is prohibited from conducting on-course and off-course horse racing and betting even during the pendency of the petition (challenging refusal to grant licence), subject to the outcome of the petition,” stated the court’s operative portion.

The case revolves around the State Home Department’s refusal to issue a racing license and the Finance Department’s denial of a betting license to BTC, both orders dated June 6. These refusals prompted a series of writ petitions from not only BTC but also the Karnataka Race Horse Owners Association, the Karnataka Trainers Association, punters, and the Jockeys’ Association of India.

The petitioners argued that horse racing and betting activities had a history of over a century and contributed to the economy, supporting more than 20,000 people and generating over ₹1 crore in daily tax revenue. Conversely, the State accused BTC of facilitating illegal betting, leading to the license denials and claimed a substantial tax evasion loss of ₹296 crore due to these activities.

Judge SR Krishna Kumar, in his interim order on June 18, found the State’s refusal orders violative of natural justice principles. He noted that BTC was not given a fair opportunity to present its case and that the show-cause notice issued lacked detailed particulars. Consequently, Judge Kumar had granted interim relief allowing BTC to resume its activities during the pendency of their petition.

However, this interim relief has now been suspended by the Division Bench, which also left open the question of whether other petitioners apart from BTC have the legal standing to pursue their writ petitions.

The ongoing legal battle continues to attract attention given its impact on the livelihoods of many and the economic contributions from the horse racing and betting industry in Karnataka. The final outcome of this dispute remains pending as the High Court deliberates further on the petitions.