Gaming and banning: On ban on online games

News: Recently, legislative attempts to prohibit online gaming have failed under judicial scrutiny.

What was the issue?

First, the amendments brought to existing regulations on betting and gambling in Karnataka have been struck down by the State’s High Court. Also, last year, the Madras High Court invalidated similar amendments that targeted online rummy and poker.

Second, the law was called a ‘public order’ law, but the Karnataka High Court has rejected this. The law also referred to “the menace of cyber games” and the registration of about 28,000 cases by the police in the State in the last three years.

Third, the government said that many have taken their own lives and families ruined as a result of gaming addiction and indebtedness.

Why the judiciary has struck down the amendments brought to the existing regulations on betting and gambling in Karnataka?

One, the provisions of the laws failed to make a distinction between games of skill and games of chance and sought to bring under the proscription all games played online, regardless of the extent to which skill was required. It attempted to make all online gaming punishable, even if they involved skill.

Two, in both cases, the legislature assumed a paternalistic role with the aim of protecting the people, especially the youth, from the temptations of online gambling.

Three, the court has pointed out, if the objective was to curb the menace of gambling, the government should prohibit activities that amount to gambling and not the games of skill. The government did not consider the option of regulating betting on games of skill.

Four, the idea of betting and gambling have an element of ‘information, expression and entertainment’ that has constitutional protection. Gaming platforms are also legitimate businesses that enjoy the freedom of trade when used for online versions of games of skill.

Five, the ban has not targeted the gambling part but the ‘online’ part. Hence, it is clear that an absolute ban could not have been upheld by the court.

Source: This post is based on the article “Gaming and banning: On ban on online games” published in The Hindu on 16th Feb 2022.

Print Friendly and PDF