Delhi Court Frowns on Money-based Online Games: Where will the Gamers Head?
A startup internet firm built by IIT Delhi alumni has obtained from a Delhi court an interpretation of Article 19(1)(g) of the Indian constitution which allows every citizen the right to “practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business”.
The company is planning to offer six online games – Chess, Billiards, Rummy, Poker, Bridge and Snooker.
The court advised that online game sites which charge participants money to make up the winning prizes, even if the games require skill, can fall under the category of illegal gambling in some states.
Based on this ruling, gaming sites and web-hosting companies that allow them to exist could be tucked away in the shady corners of the internet. They will have a hard time getting protection from the Constitution if they need to take the legal recourse, and banks will be entitled to turn their backs away from such sites.
Cracking down on the Gamblers
It is not just the law that frowns upon gambling.
For long, internet services such as Google AdWords and AdSense have strictly prohibited the use of gambling in advertisements and website content.
India has been known to allow a good measure of freedom on the internet, but is also reputed to summarily wipe off websites that are deemed to be troublemakers, as is indicated by a report sent out by The OpenNet Initiative.
Websites are taken down for “security reasons”, but online gambling is known to continue mostly unchecked, in spite of repeated associations being made between this activity and security issues.
Officially, gambling is allowed at casinos in Goa and Sikkim, apart from betting at horse races that take place in parts of the country.
Away from the radar of the police, online gambling is rampant, contributing to the $60billion industry that thrives on mostly illegal activities. One of the laws restricting gambling and particularly targeting games that do not need skill, the archaic The Public Gambling Act of 1867, threatens that anyone found in a gaming house “shall be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred rupees” or a prison term “not exceeding one month”. As for persons found running the gaming houses, the punishment is a fine of up to two hundred rupees or imprisonment of up to three months.
There have been no instances of major crackdowns on illegal online gambling, with calls being made to ponder over the complex and possibly outdated laws that attempt to control these actions.
Going by the recommendation of the Delhi court on this subject, will organizers of online games tend to be extra careful? Or, will they take advantage and call for their rivals to be taken down from the internet?
The most probable situation is that the intertia will continue until there is a major overhaul of gambling, foreign exchange and information technology laws that look into this subject.