Indian States Continue To Debate Over iGaming Legalization

Indian States Continue To Debate Over iGaming Legalization

The online gaming market in India grew in 2021, even though multiple states continued to push for a blanket ban on online gambling. Karnataka’s Advocate General (AG) Prabhuling K Navadgi labeled iGaming as a danger to public order and defended the state government for amending the Karnataka Police Act in a December 1 ruling at the Karnataka High Court.

The judgement spelled disappointment for several gaming corporations and entities who had petitioned against the amended Act.

Regulating Online Gambling – Massive Challenge

AG Navadgi established that the state government’s responsibility to ensure social order in Karnataka had empowered it to amend the Police Act and pass it. Navadgi also stated that online gambling was a bigger menace than alcohol addiction, citing the prohibition of liquor previously upheld by the High Court.

The judge addressed the state government and said that controlling the gambling sector was an enormous challenge due to the ease of players having access to online gambling. According to the judge, a player can easily indulge in online gambling through a mobile phone. Navadgi also opined that physical gambling activities like betting on horse races are excluded from the ambit of the law as they are seasonal.

Further, Navadgi said that online gambling could take place throughout the year and can be accessed from anywhere. The Karnataka AG also cited the numerous instances where bank accounts were wiped out via e-banking operations used to pay for gambling.

Despite the AG pronouncing the amended Act as legitimate, the Supreme Court has deemed the case arguments inconclusive. On December 23, the division bench urged the involved parties to hand in their written submissions. The bench comprising chief justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and justice Krishna S Dixit had reserved the judgement and had adjourned the hearings to a later date.

Contentious Regulations for Gambling Industry

Many states have rolled out their respective plans to regulate and govern the online gambling industry in India. However, these regulations like that in Karnataka have spurred immense debates and objections to a plan acceptable for the players, casino operators, industry stakeholders, and the state governments.

The thriving online gambling industry in India has faced challenges in the form of blanket bans by the state government. The discourse on regulatory policies for iGaming in India is lacking because of the prevailing view that gambling for money is a vice. The officials in Karnataka have sponsored the same. However, bans have little effect installing the growth of the online gambling market in India.

Skill Game Operators Seek Judicial Guidance

High Courts in Indian states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala had previously overturned the bans on internet gambling by the state governments, citing that they are illegal and unconstitutional.

Currently, the Karnataka High Court is considering multiple petitions filed by skill game operators, seeking guidance on the blanket ban imposed by the Karnataka government on all kinds of skill games like fantasy sports, bridge, chess, and poker.

The ban comes as a blatant disregard of the apex court that has previously upheld the legitimacy and the constitutional viability of skill games played for profit. According to advocate Suhaan Mukerji, skill games are protected by the constitution and cannot be classified as gambling.

Benefits of Regulation and What India Should Do?

There are several benefits of a regulatory policy for the online gambling industry in India. However, it depends on the government officials to leverage the economic gain from iGaming operations in the country and ensure the safety of the players.

Analysts suggest that India should take a leaf out of other nations’ policies to forge a strong regulatory regime. Industry experts often tout Sweden as an example after its gaming regulator had imposed several limitations on licensed online gambling operators. As a result, there was a rise in unlicensed casino operations, exposing the Swedish market to an insecure gaming environment.

Industry experts suggest that Indian authorities should require operators to pay state taxes and ensure compliance with local laws. Operators should also practice self-regulation along with abiding by government guidelines. The inclusion of safety-nets and requiring gambling firms to put up honest and responsible ad campaigns should be mandatory to obtain a license to operate in India.

According to analysts, betting sites, online casinos, and lotteries in India would be keen enough to comply with the government regulations as it would be in their interest and that of the public.

With a strong regulatory regime and facilitative environment, the Indian economy can reap the benefits of promising gambling industry in the form of more employment, consumer protection, increased tax revenue, and attracting potential investors.

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