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Karnataka govt to bring in law regulating online gambling, betting: Report

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The Karnataka state government proposes to have a law regulating online gambling and betting in the state, it has told the Karnataka High Court, per LiveLaw. A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum granted six weeks to the state government to file its statement of objections to a petition seeking ban on online gambling and betting of any nature until a regulatory regime is established.

Assistant Attorney General reportedly sought time on the ground that a proposal to have a legislation is being placed before the state cabinet. The cabinet’s decision will be placed on record along with the statement of objections, per the order. Senior Advocate and a former Attorney General of India Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for The Online Rummy Federation, submitted that online rummy is not illegal and should not be prohibited. TORF was seeking to be impleaded in the matter, which the court has permitted.

The petition, filed by one Sharada DR, called attention to the regulatory vacuum, in the form of a government structure or regulatory body, around online gambling and betting. This led vulnerable sections, particularly the youth, adults, and even children to become prone to predatory situations, it claimed.

The petition also cites recent moves by the high courts of Gujarat and Madras around online gambling and betting laws governing the respective states. The matter will now be heard on March 21.

Recent efforts to regulate online gambling

Most recently, the Kerala High Court directed the state government to take a decision within two weeks on whether it would bring online gambling under the state gaming law. This was in response to a similar petition that pointed out the regulatory gaps in terms of online gambling, since the relevant law was drafted decades ago.

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Any laws around gaming involving stakes is a state subject under the Indian Constitution. Broadly speaking, jurisprudence in India makes a distinction between games of skill and games of chance. Games of skill are permitted in most states except for some, including Assam and Andhra Pradesh, who have prohibited them under their own state laws.

New forms of online gaming involving real-money stakes have evolved in the past years. In response, petitions have emerged in different courts asking for either a ban or for the regulatory gaps to be filled in by updating the laws. In the Rajasthan High Court, a petition alleging that Dream11 offers online gambling services was dismissed. The court ruled in Dream11’s favour and states that the fantasy gaming company offers a game of skill, and hence is not gambling. The court, in fact, recognised self-regulatory mechanisms by the real-money gaming industry, and saw such mechanisms in a positive light.

The Gujarat High Court also considered a petition asking for online gambling apps to be banned. Instead of passing an order, the court directed the Gujarat government to consider the petition as a representation, the court said it expects that the state government to promptly look into the issues, take the appropriate decision as per laws and regulations “in larger public interest before it is too late”. The state government’s counsel, Manisha Luvkumar Shah, said the government “shall look into the same at the earliest in accordance with the law”.

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