Karnataka online gambling ban: Karnataka HC to hear petitions challenging new law

The Karnataka government had notified the new law making online gambling punishable with a maximum imprisonment of three years or a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh.
A board full of cards and gambling pieces
A board full of cards and gambling pieces
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The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday, October 27, will start hearing a batch of petitions filed by All India Gaming Federation and individual companies challenging the new Karnataka law banning online betting games. In late September, the Karnataka Assembly had passed the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act, 2021, which has made online gambling punishable by a maximum imprisonment of three years or a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh for any violation. The Karnataka Police (Amendment) Bill, 2021 which was notified on October 5, amends the Karnataka Police Act of 1963 to state — "games means and includes online games, involving all forms of wagering or betting, including in the form of tokens valued in terms of the money paid before or after the issue of it, or electronic means and virtual currency, electronic transfer of funds in connection with any game of chance."

A report by The Hindu said a bench of Justice Krishna S Dixit will club petitions by the association and other parties like Galactus Funware, Play Games 24x7, Head Digital Works, Gamekraft and Junglee Games. The Economic Times reported that Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi will file a statement of objections by Wednesday. 

The Bill does not ban lottery or wagering or betting on horse races run on any racecourse within or outside the state. But industry stakeholders say this brings games based on skill, like online chess, archery, online quiz games, etc under its ambit despite various courts including the apex court deeming them legal. The Kerala High Court as recently as September 27 had stayed a Kerala government notification to ban online rummy under Kerala Gaming Act, 1960. Based on a petition by four companies, the HC relied upon an earlier Supreme Court which held online rummy as a game of skill.

The All Indian Gaming Federation has been saying that Bengaluru's image as start-up capital will be hampered and the ban will have massive economic repercussions. The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) had said that there are 92 online gaming companies registered in Bengaluru alone, employing 4,000 persons. Roland‌ ‌Landers,‌ ‌CEO,‌ ‌All‌ ‌India‌ ‌Gaming‌ ‌Federation‌ (AIGF) haD said that skill-based gaming is a sunrise sector and is‌ ‌giving‌ ‌birth‌ ‌to‌ ‌an‌ ‌increasing‌ ‌number‌ ‌of‌ ‌unicorns‌ ‌within‌ ‌the‌ ‌country,‌ ‌especially in‌ Karnataka.‌

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