Maharashtra Deputy CM says online skill games cannot be banned, mass awareness campaign required to caution against online gaming, lotteries addiction

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Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, while replying to a starred question and supplementary questions raised by several Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) across party lines yesterday, replied to concerns raised about the proliferation of lottery centers and online gaming and betting websites.

Fadnavis, who also holds the Home Portfolio, noted that illegal lottery centers operating will be dealt with firmly by the local police as and when any such information is received, and every such instance of illegal gambling will be investigated.

He added that if the lottery or gambling parlour proliferates at the same location for the second time, then suitable action will also be initiated against the negligent or erring police officials who allow gambling activities to go unabated.

On the issue of online skill games for real money being conducted, Fadnavis noted that there is a differentiation between games of skill and games of chance laid down by the Supreme Court, and any law banning such games may be susceptible to being struck down by the apex court as being violative of the right to freedom of trade and commerce guaranteed by the constitution.

He then provided a similar example saying, “Alcohol is prohibited as per the concerned Act, but we do grant licenses under it because some businesses run illegally otherwise. So if they are regulated through a prohibitory framework and run legally, their negative impact on society is diminished.”

The Deputy Chief Minister, however, noted that there is already a warning mandated in online gaming-related advertisements that they may be habit-forming and financially risky; however, a massive social outreach campaign will be needed to inform the people, especially the youth, about the ill effects of such games.

He also noted that amendments to the existing laws or a new law might also be enacted by the state government to regulate online gaming and lotteries, but the law has to be drafted in a manner that courts will not strike down, so we have to work within the framework of the law

“Another important thing to note is previously, our Hon. PM Modi banned Chinese apps on a large scale, and we are reaping the rewards of it. All these Chinese apps are banned,” he added

Fadnavis’ comments assume significance as he clearly enunciated the Maharashtra government’s stand against outrightly banning online gaming at a time when some other states are mulling ban, or greater restrictions on the activity and the central government are reportedly working on creating rules for the sector.

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