Tamil Nadu introduced a bill in the congregation banning online gambling with stakes. The law, which will replace a regulation passed last year, was welcomed by many sections of society. Several suicides reported in TN during the lockdown last year have been attributed to financial losses suffered by players after losing money in those games.
Two more were reported this month, much after the regulation went into effect. The bill warns players with a two-year prison sentence and / or a fine of up to Rs 10,000. Although it warns companies that run these games not to gamble with stakes, the punishment for violations is not clearly stated. Since gambling is recognized as an addiction, the decision to punish the user rather than focus on the enabler is problematic. In such scenarios often only the players are active.
The organizers manage to evade the law with money and influence. India’s experience with every other banned substance has an important lesson: Legislation must tackle cartels that run these companies rather than focusing on end-users. While the regulation banned the gambling apps, this newspaper’s analysis found that many of them are still actively available to users. While big brands have restricted access for players in TN, smaller ones continue to break the law.
As a result, the big brands have filed a lawsuit against the government’s decision to ban them, saying it was unfair. They claim they followed professional guidelines and it was the smaller companies that exploited people. The Indian legal system drew a fine line between gambling and “competence-based” gaming as early as the 1960s.
Rummy and such card games fall under the former category. Online skill gaming is an incredible crore industry in India, according to KPMG. It is facing rapid growth in a nation with ever increasing internet penetration. The industry recently joined forces at the central think tank NITI Aayog to set up a single self-regulatory agency that standardizes regulations for the entire sector. If this proposal is adopted, it remains to be seen what will happen to the TN legislation.