An ordinance to ban online games like rummy and poker was approved by Governor RN Ravi as he referred to them as ‘games of chance.’ After this, the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) pushed back and urged the Tamil Nadu government to reconsider the ordinance. AIGF claimed that rummy and poker were ‘games of skill’ and not chance.
Roland Landers, CEO of AIGF said, “The ordinance will result in a ban on most online games of skill, which include rummy and poker. What this ordinance does in effect is to treat games of skill as gambling and games of chance. This is disappointing as it disregards six decades of established legal jurisprudence and the recent judgement of the Madras High Court, which struck down a similar law.” He further stated that AIGF already made the state government aware of how offshore gambling websites and apps were proliferating while ‘constitutionally protected’ India apps were being banned.
“The State government has already appealed against the judgement of the Madras High Court, and the Supreme court recently issued notices on the same. Instead of waiting for the SC judgement and, in the meantime, respecting the order of the Madras High Court, the government seems to have taken a decision that will eventually only benefit online gambling operators,” said Landers.
Many judgments in favour of these games as ‘skilled-based’ have been passed in the past few years. For the last 60 years, the legal jurisprudence coming from the Supreme Court is quite clear, that games of skill are not gambling, and offering games of skill is a legitimate activity protected under the Indian Constitution. This has been reiterated multiple times by various high courts, Landers claimed.
Sameer Barade, CEO of the E-gaming Federation (EGF) stated that rummy, being a game of skill, has been settled by the Supreme Court and has been held to be a protected trade under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.
“Including rummy as a game of chance is a direct violation of the Supreme Court judgments and also the recent judgement of the Madras High Court, which overturned the law banning online games including rummy. In its detailed judgement, the high court reaffirmed the preponderance test for distinguishing between games of skill and games of chance, especially in the context of rummy, reinforcing that both rummy and poker are games of skill. We are examining the ordinance and shall be taking appropriate action in due course of time,” said Barade.
According to Landers, the court clarified that any restriction on games of skill, whether online or offline, for stakes or not, needed to be narrow and instead of banning them, the State should try and regulate them.
Landers further said, “The court also came down heavily on the State government for passing the law as a populist measure in the lead up to the assembly elections, without following the established law. The ban can have an adverse effect on the State and will push more and more people towards illegal offshore websites.”
India is the fifth largest online gaming market globally. It is a sunrise sector and has been giving birth to an increasing number of unicorns within the country. The skill-gaming sector has been a strong financial contributor to the Indian economy even during an unprecedented period of slowdown and is further expected to generate revenue in excess of $5 billion by 2025. AIGF states that any form of the ban will impact the overall business of a sector as will the overall online skill gaming ecosystem due to the recent Tamil Nadu ordinance.
Donna Amo was a writer at Gutshot Magazine. She is a graduate from Sophia College of Women, Mumbai with a degree in English Literature. When this October born foodie is not writing content or poetry, she spends her time laughing at memes or watching series. Based out of Mizoram, she is drawn to all things nature and has a soft spot for puppies.
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