Will not take precipitating action against gaming firms till court decision: Karnataka govt tells HC

Advocates representing the gaming companies have argued that Supreme Court judgments and recent judgments of the Madras and Kerala High Courts have established that games of skill will not fall under the purview of gambling laws as opposed to games of chance.

With online gaming firms filing a series of petitions in the Karnataka High Court against a recent ban imposed on online gambling in the state through amendments to the Karnataka Police Act, 1963, the state government Thursday told the High Court that it would not take any “precipitating action” under the new laws against the firms till the cases are decided.

The All India Gaming Federation and nine different gaming companies approached the High Court opposing clauses in the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Bill, 2021 which aims to “curb menace of gaming through the Internet, mobile apps”. The gaming federation and gaming companies are opposing the inclusion of online games of skill in the category of online gambling.

On Thursday, senior advocates argued for an interim stay on clauses pertaining to games of skill in the amended Karnataka Police Act. A single judge of the high court, however, referred to an assurance provided by the state advocate general that “no precipitating action will be taken” until the High Court takes a decision on the new amendments.

Advocates representing the gaming companies have argued that Supreme Court judgments and recent judgments of the Madras and Kerala High Courts have established that games of skill will not fall under the purview of gambling laws as opposed to games of chance.

Senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi appearing for Gameskraft Technologies Pvt Ltd argued that “populism and paternalism” was behind the legislative move to bring games of skill within the ambit of gambling.

The gaming federation has argued in its petition that curbs on online gaming will affect a growing gaming industry in the country. The federation has cited the online gaming industry as having seen investment to the tune of Rs 3,000 crore, especially through start-ups in Karnataka.

The Karnataka High Court has posted the matter for further hearing on November 11.

In September, the Karnataka legislature passed a law to amend the Karnataka Police Act, 1963, to ban all forms of gambling including online gambling. It puts betting on the skills of others in the category of gambling and states that “any act of risking money or otherwise on the unknown result of an event including on a game of skill” is an offence.

In its earlier form, the law was not applicable to betting by players involved in a game of skill. The amended law provides an exception from the gambling laws only to the playing of any pure game of skill and not to “wagering by persons taking part in such game of skill”.

Since the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act, 2021 was enacted last month, several online gaming companies have geo locked the availability of their gaming sites and apps in Karnataka from fear of police action. An FIR has been filed against the promoters of Dream 11 in Bengaluru.

A separate bench of the Karnataka high court Thursday asked the state police not to take coercive action against the promoters of the online gaming company.

In February this year, the Tamil Nadu government introduced a law to impose a comprehensive ban on all forms of gambling, including online gaming. The law was, however, struck down by a division bench of the Madras High Court in August as being ultra vires and unnecessary after it was challenged by online gaming firms.

Source: Read Full Article