The Karnataka Police (Amendment) Bill, 1963 was tabled at the Karnataka Legislative Assembly last week. The bill, which aims at banning online games, was officially passed in the assembly on Tuesday. The bill was approved via a voice vote amid the flak received from the industry and resistance from the opposition in the assembly. The new bill will draw a fine of up to ₹1 Lakh and a prison term of up to three years for offenders.
Karnataka Home Minister, Araga Jnanendra, who had tabled the bill had earlier told The Print, “We intend to ban all games that involve profiting, betting and stakes. We have taken lessons from the Madras High Court’s decision to strike down similar legislation in Tamil Nadu and have changed our bill accordingly. The state has data on how many people have been affected by online betting and iGaming during the pandemic and this bill hopes to put an end to it.”
The opposition party was opposing the bill due to the apparent incapability of police to tackle the newer forms of gambling such as online betting on sports, online gaming and poker. Basavaraj Bommai, the Chief Minister stated that the new law does not forbid online games strictly complying under ‘games of skill’ characteristics. However, operators who operate games of chance under the skin of game of skill will be strictly dealt with by the government. Action will also be taken against skill-based games which involve the risk of players’ money or cause players to lose their money. The bill defines the online games that will be banned as “any act or risking money… on the unknown result of an event, including on a game of skill.”
Roland Landers, CEO, All India Gaming Federation states, “India is the fifth largest online gaming market globally and skill-based gaming, a sunrise sector, is giving birth to an increasing number of unicorns within the country, especially Karnataka. The sector has been a strong financial contributor to the Indian economy even during an unprecedented period of slowdown and is further expected to generate revenues in excess of $3 billion by 2025. The move by the Karnataka government is a setback to the state’s reputation of being a tech-hub and start-up capital.”
“The ban in Karnataka is disconcerting for this sunrise sector in India, particularly at a time when the higher judiciary has reiterated the difference between games of skill and games of chance. That Karnataka, which is a tech and start-up capital of India, should take such a step is all the more distressing because a lot of other states realize gaming’s potential and working on policies to attract investment from gaming companies- in view of the sector’s immense multiplier benefits”, says, Dinker Vashisht, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Games24x7.
Amarylisa Gonsalves is a Content Writer at Gutshot Magazine. Advancing from a marketing background, she found her calling in writing. She takes delight in exploring genres and is a curious learner. Patient and ambivert, she believes in letting her work speak for itself. Apart from content writing, she finds solace in writing poetry by manifesting herself through words. Additionally, she adores indulging in drawing and DIY crafts.
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