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Supreme Court to hear TN Government’s challenge to high court decision striking down online rummy and poker ban

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The Supreme Court announced its decision to review the Tamil Nadu government’s appeal challenging the Madras High Court’s ruling that invalidated a section of its online gaming law, specifically the prohibition of skill-based games like online rummy and poker.

The case was presented today before a 3-judge bench led by the Chief Justice of India. The court acknowledged that similar appeals from a previous legal battle involving the governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are already awaiting consideration in the apex court. Consequently, the court has consolidated the new appeal with the earlier pending appeals from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to address the overall question of whether states have the authority to ban online games involving stakes. However, no specific date has been set for the final hearing.

As reported by Money Control, this latest case is linked with the Tamil Nadu government’s 2022 appeal challenging the Madras High Court’s decision to nullify the Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Act of 2021, which had imposed a suspension on online games. 

In April 2023, the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), along with real-money gaming firms Gameskraft, Games24x7, and Head Digital Works, filed a petition in the Madras High Court, challenging the constitutionality of the Tamil Nadu government’s online gambling law.

The contested law had banned online rummy and poker in the southern state, categorizing them as games of chance and bringing them under the domain of online gambling. This move triggered a dispute between the State and the Union regarding legislative authority over the subject of gambling, which falls under the jurisdiction of the individual states in India.

In November 2023, the Madras High Court upheld the law but set aside the provisions prohibiting skill-based online gaming, such as online rummy and poker. The court maintained that the state government is free to establish rules regulating the duration of play or setting age limits for these online money games.

The roots of this legal battle trace back to 2021 when the Tamil Nadu government quickly passed emergency legislation prohibiting all forms of online games, including skill-based ones, within the state. This legislation was a response to a tragic incident where a woman took her own life due to losses in online gaming. The Madras High Court, in early 2022, declared the law unconstitutional. The government appealed this decision, and the case is currently pending at the Supreme Court.

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