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Tamil Nadu to ban online gambling, will bring legislation soon

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Tamil Nadu will take steps to ban online gambling, the state’s chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami announced on Thursday. Palaniswami said that a legislation would soon be brought in that will deem all those who “conduct and indulge in online gambling” as criminals, reported multiple media outlets, including The Hindu and The News Minute. Tamil Nadu will be the latest state in the country to take action against online gambling and real money gaming; neighbouring Andhra Pradesh had recently taken a similar decision.

Tamil Nadu’s decision comes just days after the Madras High Court issued notice in two petitions seeking a complete ban and directions against online gambling, including online rummy. Palaniswami reportedly told reporters in Chennai that the ban is based on demands from various people and organisations. The state has seen a spate of suicides linked to online gambling. In Coimbatore, two men aged 28 and 32 died of suicide within the span of last week; around a dozen such deaths have been reported across Tamil Nadu in recent times, reported The Times of India.

According to an English translation of Palaniswami’s tweet, online gambling had “ruined the lives” of many young people by wasting their money and time, forcing them to take their lives. “Honourable Amma [late former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa]’s government has decided to ban all online gambling games,” he said. In another tweet, he said that the government will swiftly amend the law and arrest all those running and engaging in online gambling.

Madras High Court called for regulation, ‘immediate action’

The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court heard two petitions seeking directions on online gambling. One of petitions was filed by an S Muthukumar, who sought a ban on online rummy offered by PlayGames24x7 and others in Tamil Nadu. The other petition was by a Mohammad Rizvi, who called for a ban on online games, websites and social networks, citing their misuse and harm to young people. He cited the suicide of three children, as well as adults, who committed suicide allegedly after playing PUBG, Blue Whale Challenge and online rummy.

In both these petitions, the court issued notice to cricketer Virat Kohli, BCCI chief Saurav Ganguly, actors Tamannaah Bhatia, Prakash Raj, Rana Daggubati and  Sudeep Sanjeev for endorsing online real money gaming. Notices were also issued to TRAI, Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY), I&B ministry, Home and IT secretaries of Tamil Nadu, and the state’s DGP.

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In response to Muthukumar’s petition, the court said it “hopes that appropriate, adequate and immediate measures including bringing a legislation to prohibit or regulate Online Gambling would be taken by the Government before the next hearing in order to ensure that no precious life hereinafter will be lost”. [emphasis added].

Online gambling, real money gaming under scrutiny across country

Tamil Nadu is only one of several state governments — along with high courts — who are interested in regulating or banning online gambling and real money gaming. In September, Andhra Pradesh issued an ordinance to make online gambling a criminal offence, bringing criminal liability on anyone who gambles or places bets online. Interestingly, the ordinance also brought into its scope online gaming.

Last week, Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy wrote to Union IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, asking for the central government to ban 132 online gambling and gaming websites, including fantasy cricket leagues such as Paytm First Games and Cricket11.club. It should be noted that the neighbouring state of Telangana had banned online gambling more than three years ago.

Puducherry, too, recently appealed to the central government to ban online gambling. Chief Minister V Narayanaswamy had said last month that he has written to Ravi Shankar Prasad, urging him for the same. This decision, too, came in the wake of suicide, wherein a man in Villanur reportedly killed himself after falling into a debt trap.

Last month, the Gujarat High Court considered a petition asking for online gambling apps to be banned and for the gambling law to be amended. The court directed the state government to consider the petition as a representation, and said it expects the government to take a decision “in larger public interest before it is too late”.

Similarly, the Delhi High Court routed a petition against online gambling to the Delhi government as representation. The court, instead of passing any directions, noted that online gambling remains unregulated.

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