Andhra Online Rummy Ban: HC directs govt to form a committee to determine if online version is a ‘game of skill’

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A division bench of Andhra Pradesh High Court comprising of Justices C Praveen Kumar and K Manmadha Rao on Tuesday directed the state government to constitute a committee to determine whether online rummy is a game of skill or game of chance.

The committee will comprise of a Judicial, Independent-Technical and Non-Technical Members [nothing to do with the Government], Two persons representing the platform operators, one Police Officer of the rank of Director General [well-versed in Information Technology] as Members of Committee and/any other Member representing the Government. The direction came in response to a batch of petitions challenging the 2020 amendments to Andhra Pradesh Gaming Act, 1974 that banned all gaming for stakes.

In the decision dated 31 January 2023, the High Court while holding that rummy played physically is a “game of skill,” held that no material is available to hold that Online Rummy is also a “game of skill”/or “game of chance”. The Court opined that the two recent judgments of Karnataka High Court and Tamil Nadu High Court have not dealt with the manner in which online rummy is played.

Agreeing with contention of the government, the High Court raised queries on skill element in an online game. “When the operator is one of the players or when the game itself can be played by the operator, can it be said that the game is played in a fool proof manner, avoiding mischief and malpractice.

The government argued that online game is not only played in different format but approach itself is different thereby making landmark decisions in K.R Lakshmanan and State of Andhra Pradesh v. K. Satyanarayana and Ors, non-applicable to the present case.

Detailing how each of the petitioner operators is operating the games, the Court held that  it may not be proper for the Court to come to a conclusion, without knowing how it is played and the manner in which the operator functions. The matter will be now listed after four weeks while the committee has a time period of four weeks to submit its report. Senior counsels Sajan Poovayya and C Mohan Reddy argued for the petitioner rummy companies.

Andhra Pradesh is second state to enact a law banning all gaming for stakes. The amendment was brought in 2020 and continue to be in force. The later laws brought in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka were struck down the respective High Courts. While, Telangana government has recently tagged similar constitutional challenges to the similar cases pending before the Supreme Court.