Court to continue to hear arguments on pleas to stay new law banning online gaming involving wagering or betting
The State Government on October 27 told the High Court of Karnataka that it was not possible to give an undertaking that no precipitative action would be initiated on online gaming operators till the court adjudicates the petitions challenging the recently enacted Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act, 2021, which prohibits and criminalises the playing of online games, including games of skill, by risking money or otherwise.
Skill and chance
The State cannot offer a blanket protection from initiation of criminal proceedings under the new law on online gaming operators as there exist games of chance as well, and there are contentious issues over online version of games of skills compared to their physical format, State Advocate-General Prabhuling K. Navadgi told the court.
The A-G made these oral submissions when Justice Krishna S. Dixit, who is hearing petitions against the new enactment, said the court could take up the petitions for final adjudication instead of hearing on interim plea for stay of implementation of the new law if the Government was prepared to give an assurance of not to take precipitative action by the police against the petitioners, who are online gaming operators.
Following this, the court said that it would resume hearing on October 28 limiting the arguments only on interim plea of the petitioners.
Earlier, Senior Advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for the All-India Gaming Federation, contended that the State legislature lacked powers to ban games of skills in the online form when they were permitted to be held legal in physical format by the apex court in interpreting the laws on gambling and betting. Mr. Datar said that skills and talent required by the players were the element that decided whether it was a game of chance or skill. He also said that call from a school of thought that online gaming was affecting youngsters and their education appears to be the reason for new enactment though there was no clarity.
‘Populism and paternalism’
Pointing out that “populism and paternalism” appeared to be the reason behind the new enactment, Senior Advocate Abhishek M. Singivi, appearing for one of the petitioners, argued that the State legislature could not have ventured into the task of terming the games of skill in the online format as illegal when the apex court had decades ago declared that games of skills do not amount to wagering or betting.
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