Enforcing online gaming bans: Easier in theory, difficult in practice

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Amid litigations, crackdowns, and bans, online gaming involving stakes has frequently attracted the ire of some stakeholders, especially across India’s southern states. Karnataka is the recent entrant among the club of states to bring in legislation banning online betting and gambling in the upcoming assembly session starting Monday.

While the law prescribes harsher retribution, if caught, for those transgressing the ban, enforcing such a ban and monitoring the Internet will definitely be a challenging task.

“The only way we can enforce a ban is to write to the Union government to block gambling websites and apps. Karnataka will also write to them with a list of portals and apps to be blocked once the law is in place,” said a senior police official told The Hindu.

However, online gambling has not been banned across the country yet. Since Telangana paved the way by bringing in a blanket ban on online gaming with a law in 2013, other southern states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh followed suit and framed laws and amendments to prohibit online gambling over the past year. 

In an interesting turn of events, the Madras High Court in August this year scrapped the amendments the Tamil Nadu government had brought in to ban online gambling. On the back of that win, it is expected that the proposed ban in Karnataka will also be met with resistance from online rummy and poker companies.

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According to the officer, unless there is a uniform regulatory policy on the issue, enforcing these bans will be a Sisyphean task. There are several workarounds like VPN that players can easily access these sites through. At best, the laws by State governments will only help them penalize and punish gamblers and organizers but these steps can not eradicate online gambling completely

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The Karnataka Police (Amendment) Bill, drafted with an aim to ban online gambling, proposes a prison term of up to three years and a fine as high as Rs 3 lakh for violators and is likely to be tabled in the upcoming legislature session. The draft Bill was cleared by the Cabinet on Saturday.

The draft amendment also expands the definition of gambling to include both offline and online gambling and makes indulging, organizing, and advertising for the same a cognizable and non-bailable offense.

The draft Bill defines online games as “involving all forms of wagering or betting including in the form of tokens valued in terms of money paid before or after the issue of it, or electronic means and virtual currency, electronic transfer of funds in connection with any game of chance.