AIGF challenges Tamil Nadu ordinance to ban online gaming

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The Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Online Gambling and Regulation of Online Games Ordinance, 2002 has been challenged before the Madras High Court by the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF). It has sought that the court stays the ordinance’s implementation until the resolution of its primary case to declare it illegal.

On Thursday, a written petition is scheduled to be heard by the first Division Bench, which includes Acting Chief Justice T. Raja and D. Bharatha Chakravarthy. The general secretary of the Mumbai-based AIGF, Sunil Krishnamurthy, filed an affidavit on the organization’s behalf, stating that it was a recognised non-profit society founded in 2016 to safeguard gaming customers.

Additionally, the AIGF works to represent the interests of numerous gaming businesses, particularly those who provide skill-based games online. It asserted that it has 51 members who provide these games and that it has worked tirelessly to guarantee that online gaming is conducted in an ethical and responsible manner.

The federation added that each of its members had to adhere to a code that allowed them to only provide skill-based games, not games of chance. The games cannot be made available to players under the age of 18 or those who reside outside of the country, according to the charter.

Several other features in the charter call for the gaming industry to educate players about responsible gaming and warn them of its negative impacts. Additionally, it insists on providing players with self-administered tests for addiction.

Games of skill like rummy and poker were also outlawed in 2021 after the State government revised the Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, 1930, to prohibit their play for wager, bet, money, or other stakes. However, a Division Bench of the High Court passed a judgement against the amendment in August last year.

Following that, the 2022 amendment has categorized rummy and poker as games of chance. In response to this categorization, the AIGF argued that the Law Commission of India had acknowledged in its 276th report that games of skill like poker and rummy allow more skilled players to defeat amateur players.

Additionally, the AIGF stated that poker is not considered “gaming or gambling” under the West Bengal Gambling and Prize Competitions Act of 1957. Moreover, rummy and poker can be played with a license under the Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Rules of 2009. The federation further added that poker and rummy are classified as games of skill by the Nagaland Prohibition of Gaming and Promotion and Regulation of Online Games of Skill Act of 2015, it added.

In the affidavit it said, “Therefore, it is submitted that a majority of the States in India treat poker and rummy as games of skill and have kept it outside the ambit of betting and gambling. As such, poker and rummy competitions are just like any other business activity, the protection of which is guaranteed under Article 19(l) (g) of the Constitution.”

The AIGF argued that the 2022 ordinance passed by the TN government disregards the rulings of the Supreme Court as well as the High Court along with the legislative practices of some other states on the matter. It said that the ordinance will force several of its members to stop their commercial operations.