Bring progressive law not ban: FICCI Gaming Committee urges government

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Reacting to the recent statement made by the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister about bringing an end to online gaming in the state, the FICCI Gaming Committee (FGC) urged the government to adopt an enabling gaming policy protecting players while ensuring a secure, and responsible gaming environment.

The Chief Minister made a statement in assembly a few days back announcing that his government would be bringing an end to online gaming in the state soon. The DMK government is facing pressure from the opposition to enact a new law after the Madras high court struck down an amendment to the Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, 1930 that banned online games last year. This law was enacted by the AIDMK government which lost the elections last year paving way for the DMK government.

Also read: Online rummy and poker – a clear game of chance: DMK MP Senthil writes to IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw

Mr Arun Chawla, Director General, FICCI said, “While we appreciate the intent of the govt to protect the users, a wide-ranging ban seems excessive and disproportionate in meeting its objectives. It shall also severely impact these new technology-driven legitimate businesses that are generating much need jobs and revenues for the state.”

The statement is significant as several states are contemplating banning or regulating online gaming space. Southern states Andhra, Telangana, Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu have already banned real money games. While Telangana imposed the ban in 2017, Andhra in 2020, the remaining three southern states banned real money games in 2021. Madhya Pradesh is contemplating to the enactment of a gaming ban regulation.

The bans imposed by Tamil Nadu and Kerala (only rummy) were challenged in the respective state High Courts which quashed them as being unconstitutional. The Tamil Nadu government has preferred to file an appeal against the decision of the Madras High Court striking down the amendments that had banned all kinds of online games played for a bet, wager, or other stakes. The matter is likely to be listed for hearing in the Supreme Court soon.

All AIGF stakeholders are governed by the skill games charter that ensure global best practices across responsible gaming and gamer protection. It is in the best interests of all concerned that the State Govt works with the skill gaming industry to build a robust regulatory framework to ensure all stakeholders across the ecosystem benefit economically and socially notably taxation revenues gaming and allowance for Indian registered gaming companies to operate in the state,” Landers said. FICCI earlier urged the Karnataka government to reconsider the ban notified under the Karnataka Police Act, 1961.

The issue of online games and their impact on the youth has been raised multiple times in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha in the recent past. In the Rajya Sabha, last month, BJP MP and former Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi raised the issue in Zero Hour. Modi said that uniform taxation and regulation of online games are the need of the hour.

I would urge the Government of India (for) uniform tax for online gaming (real money games) and I urge the government to come up with a comprehensive framework for the regulation of online gaming,” Modi said while speaking in the Upper House.

Twenty-one other MPs across parties and states associated themselves with the matter, with Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu who was presiding over the proceedings said the games are “kill games, not skill-games“. The Rajya Sabha Chairman asked the Union Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw to look at the issue.

In an RTI response last June, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has indicated that the ‘Draft Guiding Principles for the Uniform National-level Regulation of Online Fantasy Sports Platforms in India’ released by the NITI Aayog in December 2020 as well as the need for a central regulatory framework for online gaming in India may be deliberated upon by the Council of Ministers.