‘Won’t allow games with bets’: Karnataka home minister orders crackdown on Mysuru’s gambling dens

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Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra has directed the Mysuru police to clamp down on gambling dens in the city.

“We are not against any skilled games. But, we will not allow the games to be played with bets. A lot of youth are falling prey to the menace and many families are coming on the streets because of the addition to gambling,” he was quoted as saying by The Hindu.

The minister’s directive comes at a time with Diwali around the corner, with gaming activities like poker, rummy, teen patti for cash at homes of people expected to pick up.

Araga Jnanendra has been in the news ever since he tabled the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Bill 2021 in the state legislative assembly on September 17. The bill aims to ban online gaming or betting in the state with maximum imprisonment of three years and a penalty up to Rs 1 lakh.

The bill, which is currently awaiting the governor’s assent, is expected to become law within a span of two months after the government notifies draft rules under the amended first law and issues a final notification after incorporating suggestions and addressing concerns of all key stakeholders.

The rules, as per the minister, will offer a great deal of clarity in terms of the procedural aspect of the law as well as its implementation. The rationale behind bringing in such a bill, the minister said, is the fact the younger generation is ‘wasting good money on betting, resulting in not just loss of income but also “illegalities and rowdyism” in society.

The amendments brought in by the government, the home minister said, have eliminated certain legal challenges that were preventing the State from combating gambling as defined by the Dharwad bench of the Karnataka High Court.

Reportedly, a string of gaming companies are preparing to challenge Karnataka’s new law in courts. In response to this development, Jnanendra claimed that the new amendments are in complete alignment with the past rulings in courts.

“Courts have allowed skill games and we have accepted it. But no court has allowed betting. So our law also allows online skill games but not betting or wagering on them,” the minister said, adding that the government is well-prepared to defend it if a legal challenge surfaces.

Bengaluru is home to several homegrown gaming entities including Sequoia Capital-funded Mobile Premier League. As many as 92 gaming companies are registered in the state capital, employing around 4000 people, and have attracted around Rs 3000 crores of investment in the last three years alone, according to the Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).

According to a study conducted by Startup Business Academy, Bengaluru’s image as a start-up hub will be severely dented if Karnataka implements a ban on online gaming for stakes.

Startup Business Academy, an organization that aims to boost the growth of startup entrepreneurs, carried out a survey among 650+ respondents from within the start-up community.

A majority of those who were surveyed said that not only will the ban affect Bangalore’s image but it will also have a cascading effect of gaming ban on other start-up and IT segments.