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Kerala HC directs state govt to take a decision on including online gaming in Kerala Gaming Act

The Kerala High Court has directed the state chief secretary and IT secretary to take an “appropriate decision” on the aspect of including online gambling and betting within the purview of the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960. The court passed the order on February 10, in a petition requesting regulation of online gaming, particularly rummy, in Kerala by updating the state’s gambling law.

The order was passed by a bench consisting of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly.

Filed by one Pauly Vadakkan, a film director, the petition pleaded the Kerala HC to declare online betting and gambling, particularly online rummy, unlawful and illegal. The plea also asks for direction to the Kerala state government to ban these online betting or gambling “of any nature” until an appropriate regulatory regime is established and regulations are framed by the state government. Vadakkan also felt endorsements of online gaming platforms by celebrities such as Virat Kohli and Aju Varghese encouraged “unsuspecting people” to sign up for the games.

On February 10, Vadakkan’s lawyer Jomy K. Jose reiterated that online gaming platforms are a “growing menace”. Jose cited recent decisions by the Madras High Court and Gujarat High Court on similar petitions on online gaming.

Online gaming companies PlayGames 24×7 Pvt Ltd and Mobile Premier League, Virat Kohli, Aju Varghese, and Tamannaah Bhatia are among the respondents.

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In a hearing on February 10, senior government pleader Aravinda Kumar Babu submitted that the Kerala State Police Chief has sent a proposal to the government to include online gambling and online netting under the Kerala Gaming Act. This proposal is pending under the state government’s consideration and a decision in this regard will be taken two weeks from today.

Babu agreed that online gambling and betting are not included in the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960 and that a law needs to be framed to bring this under the government’s regulatory purview.

Thus from the statement made on behalf of the Government it is revealed that the existing law, does not bring online gambling or online betting, within the purview of the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960, and inclusion of the same in the existing enactment is a legislative function.

The petition claims that online gambling games depend on chance, rather than skill. Online rummy platforms are a “growing menace” in the state; they attract audiences with false promises, such as of Rs. 25,000 in daily prize winnings, when the probability of such winnings are “slim to none” in reality, the petition declared.

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