‘Can bring changes if necessary’: Home Minister Araga Jananendra on Karnataka gaming ban bill

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Karnataka Police (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that bans online gaming was passed in the legislative council on Thursday amid skepticism and disagreements from the opposition benches over the effectiveness. The bill will now be forwarded to the governor for his assent.

Responding to the concerns, Home Minister Araga Jananendra said that much thought had gone into bringing the bill. “We can block online gaming apps under the IT Act. This is a good experiment. We can bring changes if necessary,” he was quoted by the Hindu.

The online gaming sector has been a strong financial contributor to the Indian economy and is further expected to generate revenues in excess of $3 billion by 2025. India currently has more than 400 online gaming startups and, as of 2020, had around 360 million gamers, according to an EY-All India Gaming Federation report. Many gaming sector enterprises are headquartered in Bengaluru, the state capital and home to India’s Silicon Valley.

Having drawn rebukes from opposition members and various organisations, the legislation is expected to undergo legal scrutiny and changes in the future. Leader of Opposition S.R. Patil said the legislation may not stand the scrutiny of law as there are several High Court and Supreme Court directions considering them as game of skills. “Besides, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spoken in favour of it in his Mann Ki Baat, and NITI Aayog has also favoured it.”

JDS MLC Bhoje Gowda felt that the legislation would not succeed, another JDS MLC Marithibbe Gowda asserted that unless legislation is formed at a national level, it would not be effective. Congress Chief Whip M. Narayanswamy advised the government to reconsider the legislation since thousands of jobs in the gaming sector were at stake, and it brought revenues to the government.

Since the bill was tabled, the opposition has been building up against the move. The Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS), the industry body for fantasy sports, had highlighted that it creates confusion and uncertainty for legitimate online fantasy sports businesses while the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), the powerful trade body, representing eight crore traders and over 40,000 trade associations had expressed concerns about its implications.