The comprehensive nature of ban on online games being proposed by the state of Karnataka through the amendment of the Karnataka Police Act of 1963 may fall short in a Court of Law opine experts. The proposed amendment states “games means and includes online games, involving all forms of wagering or betting, including in the form of tokens valued in terms of the money paid before or after the issue of it, or electronic means and virtual currency, electronic transfer of funds in connection with any game of chance.” However, experts believe that such a blanket ban will not hold in a Court of Law. In the event that the bill is passed, impacted parties including Gaming companies, associations, investors, employees may move court seeking relief. Rahul Narayanan, a senior advocate practising at the Hon’ble Supreme Court said, “An all pervasive ban usually does not stand the test of law. Further there are certain precedents and judicial orders in this particular instance where an appellate may have a compelling case.”
Earlier this year, the Government of Tamil Nadu had passed the Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021, amending the Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, 1930, prohibiting all forms of online gaming (games of skill and games of chance) in the state. This law removed the exemption usually accorded to games of skill from being penalised when played for wager, bet, money or other stakes. It was challenged in the Madras High Court on the grounds of being unconstitutional. On August 3, 2021, the High Court struck down the amendment stating that by imposing a wide-ranging complete ban, the least intrusive test was violated, and the ban had thereby fallen foul of Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution.
“The Bill tabled in the Karnataka Assembly seeks to equate all games including online chess, online farming with the same brush as online gambling. The bill has made some exemptions including online betting on horse racing. I am not sure that application of a judicial mind will see any compelling rationale to this move,” said a senior corporate lawyer employed with a gaming company.
“The Government should consider regulation rather than legislation. The industry has submitted itself to the idea of regulation being brought in and already moved towards some steps of self-regulation. A comprehensive framework with active participation of the industry association is a prudent way forward,” added the lawyer quoted above.