TN Governor approves online gaming ban ordinance

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Tamil Nadu governor RN Ravi has approved an ordinance to ban online rummy and poker games with stakes in the state. This is a second time a law prohibiting gaming for stakes is enacted by the South Indian State.

The earlier law was quashed by the Madras High Court as unconstitutional. An ordinance has a life of six months and must be passed by the legislature before lapsing to become a permanent law.

This time the government has moved cautiously to ensure the law can be defended when ultimately challenged before the Courts. In the background to the enactment, the government referred to the report of Justice Chandru Committee. The government said it has received 10,735 emails from public and stakeholders of which 10,708 emails favoured the ban.

The governor approval comes a week after the Tamil Nadu cabinet, helmed by Chief Minister MK Stalin, had approved an ordinance to ban these games in the state, terming them as “online games of chance”.

“Online games of chance” is defined to include a game that involves both an element of chance and an element of skill or a game that involves an element of chance that can be eliminated by superlative skill, or a game that is presented as involving an element of chance. This definition is borrowed from the UK Gambling Act.

Gaming operators are classified as local and non-local operators. While local operators can get a license to offer certain online games, non-local operators are fully prohibited from offering online games. To avoid contravention with the law, non-local operators are required to ensure geo-blocking, warning users about prohibition in the State.

Any person offering these online games of chance will face an imprisonment of up to three years or a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh, or both. Meanwhile, people playing these games with money shall face imprisonment of up to three months or a fine of up to Rs 5,000 or both.

The move comes after a long wait amid political mudsling between DMK, AIADMK, and PMK parties.  While the Supreme Court last month has started hearing a petition by the Tamil Nadu government appeal against the Madras High Court decision that quashed the previous AIADMK-led government’s law ban on online games involving the transfer of money.

On September 9, the Supreme Court issued notice to all of the petition’s respondents, including skill-based gaming companies Junglee Games, Play Games24x7, Head Digital Works, and industry body The All India Gaming Federation, giving them four weeks to file their responses, with the case expected to be listed in 10 weeks. Subsequently the Supreme Court also heard the appeal by the Karnataka government in a similar matter and decided to club the cases.