Tamil Nadu Assembly Again Passes Bill Banning Online Gambling

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The state government tabled the Bill again after Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi returned the original Bill earlier this month

The governor, while returning the Bill, said that the state legislature had no legislative competence to frame it

The Bill seeks to prohibit online gambling games, including rummy and poker, as well as regulate online gaming

Days after Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi returned the Bill seeking to ban online gaming, the state’s Assembly once again passed the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Online Gambling and Regulation of Online Games Bill, 2022 on Thursday (March 23).

The Bill was moved by Chief Minister M K Stalin. Earlier this month, the governor returned the Bill saying the state legislature had “no legislative competence” to frame it.

The Bill sought to prohibit online gambling games, including rummy and poker, as well as regulate online gaming.

Stalin said he was reintroducing the Bill with a heavy heart as 44 persons had died by suicide after incurring heavy financial loss in online gambling.

He pointed out that before introducing the original Bill, the government constituted a committee headed by K Chandru, a former judge of the Madras High Court, to advise it on the issue.

“The bill is not just a legal draft, but a draft of the heart. We may have political differences and it is natural, but anyone with a heart will not have two views on banning online gambling that has been claiming human lives. The state should not hear the cry of a person or a family. If it happens again it will amount to dilution of the meaning of law and the powers of the state. It is the duty of the government to maintain law and order and prevent crimes,” Stalin said.

The Tamil Nadu government has been trying to ban online gambling for some time now. It banned online games involving stakes in August 2021. However, the Madras High Court struck down the law, calling it unconstitutional and directing the government to regulate such games in other ways.

However, after a lengthy battle in the Supreme Court, the state decided to form a new committee in June 2022 to regulate online gaming.

Fast forward to September 2022, and the state government brought an ordinance to ban online games with stakes

Most of the litigation in the segment has come from the ambiguous categorisation of online games. Roughly, online games are divided into two categories – games of skill and games of chance.

While the industry has argued that games such as rummy and poker are games of skill, the state government has insisted that these games count as gambling since there are stakes involved. 

Industry bodies such as the Esports Players Welfare Association have requested the state government to separate skill-based games from gambling.

The online gaming industry has been calling for central regulations for a long time since the laws currently vary from state to state, creating problems for the companies as various state governments have often resorted to banning games.

Amidst the debate over regulations, the Centre appointed MeitY as the nodal ministry in December 2022 to oversee the gaming industry. Later, the ministry released draft amendments to the IT Rules 2021, pertaining to online gaming.

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