The Karnataka government has banned all forms of gambling in the state.
This includes online games which involve an entry fee or registration fee.
The New Laws
The bill now makes gambling a cognisable and non-bailable offence.
Those charged will face a three-year jail term (changed from 1 year) and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh.
Those found to be operating, abetting and participating in such online games or sheltering such operations can be charged.
How Will The Police Implement It?
It was passed despite the opposition’s scepticism of how the police will enforce the newer forms of gambling such as online betting on sports, online gaming and poker.
The law takes into consideration the difficulty the police face in tackling the problem.
This is more so due to a recent order from the state high court at Dharwad which has barred the police from raiding gambling dens.
Defining Online Gambling
According to the law, online gambling involves wagering or betting in the form of tokens valued in terms of money paid before or after its issue.
It also covers “electronic means and virtual currency, electronic transfer of funds in connection with any game of chance”.
Game of chance is said to be dependent on the unknown result of an event where players risk losing money.
Lottery and bets on horse races are exempted from the law.
It also does not target those playing “games of skill”.
However, it will crack down on operators and abettors who run games of chance guised as games of skill.
These include games which pose a risk of monetary loss.
The Right Move?
The Indian gaming industry is scratching their head over what is considered a “game of skill” and “game of chance”.
For example, Punjab, Haryana, Bombay and Rajasthan High Courts have ruled gaming platforms like Dream11 a “game of skill”.
With the IPL season underway, online gaming firms like Dream11, My11Circle, MPL Pro, Bet365, Gamezy, etc may come under the scanner.
Livelihoods At Stake
The law could affect the livelihoods of professional gaming players and thousands of people employed by nearly a hundred gaming companies in Bengaluru.
It could also lead to an exit of international investors from the Indian market.
These investors have pumped in around Rs 3,000 crore in gaming and animation startups in Karnataka.
Food For Thought
The new rules could force people into harmful offshore and betting apps.
It could also unfairly target innocent people who play online games like chess, archery, quiz, etc.
Moreover, the image of Karnataka as the country’s startup hub could be in danger of ruin.