Questioning the ban on online gaming platforms

News: The Karnataka High Court has delivered a judgement striking down major portions of the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act, 2021. This law was introduced to ban online gambling and skill-based gaming platforms like rummy, poker and fantasy sports that involved risking money on an uncertain event.

Apart from Karnataka, a similar law introduced by the Tamil Nadu government was struck down by the Madras High Court in August 2021.

Online Gaming in India

According to a report, the number of online gamers in India grew from ~250 million gamers in 2018 to ~400 million gamers by the mid of 2020.

The main factors that contributed to their growth include technology infrastructure development and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Read more: Online gaming and its regulations in India – Explained, pointwise
Why the States are banning Online Gaming in India?

States are banning online games as they believe that online games like rummy and poker are addictive in nature. 

Reportedly, there have been instances where youngsters, faced with mounting debts due to losses in online games, have committed other crimes like theft and murder. 

Why are High Courts striking down the ban on Online Gaming?

The High Courts of several States have struck down the ban on Online Gaming on three grounds: a) violation of fundamental rights of trade and commerce, b) liberty and privacy, c) speech and expression. 

The court held that games, where substantial effort, knowledge and skills are required, are different from games of mere luck or chance. 

The High Court also relied upon previous judgements of the Supreme Court, which had held rummy, fantasy sports and betting on horse racing to be games of skill.

Read more: Multidimensional challenges posed by online gaming in India
What is the solution then for Online Gaming?

An outright ban may not entirely curtail the playing of such online games. Instead, the users will shift to grey or illegal offshore online gaming apps.

This not only results in loss of tax revenue for the State and job opportunities for locals, but results in users being unable to avail remedies for any unfair behaviour or refusal to pay out winnings.

Hence, instead of a complete ban, the state could look at licensing and regulating the industry with various checks and balances.

Read more: What are various types of online gaming?

Source: This post is based on the article “Questioning the ban on online gaming platforms published in The Hindu on 17th Feb 2022.

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