Blanket Gaming Bans Fall out of Fashion: Telangana Drafts a Bill to Regulate the Sector

Young Bites. Dated: 6/26/2022 3:33:13 PM

Telangana is the Next State that Signals Possible Swing towards Gaming Regulation instead of a Blanket Ban

Gambling Laws

Telangana might be the next state to join the trend to change the landscape of gaming and gambling laws in India by replacing old-fashioned and ineffective outright prohibitions on gaming with regulation, after Rajasthan announced abandoning previous plans to place a blanket ban on gaming in favor of implementing a regulatory regime over games of skill. Both developments came following a series of gaming bans in other states of India getting quashed by the respective High Courts for being contrary to the Constitution.

A draft bill to regulate online gaming in Telangana has already been drawn up by the state Principal Secretary for IT, Electronics & Communications Jayesh Ranjan who now is waiting for the right moment to present it to the cabinet. Ranjan made the announcement during the recent Knowledge Series forum in Meghalaya which was organized by the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF).

According to the drafted bill, a special gaming committee will be established in Telangana with the task to formulate the concrete rules for gaming in the state and decide what practices will be forbidden. The committee will consist of retired judges, members of the government and the police force, as well as representatives of gaming companies and industry bodies.

"We see that the landscape of this online gaming is extremely dynamic. It is extremely complex and the government does not have the capability at all to be the regulator by itself," Jayesh Ranjan said and pointed out that the state government is aware of the gaming industry"s potential to become a major job creator and contributor to the economy.

"We know employment opportunities in gaming companies are much more versatile, so even if you don"t have much of a formal education, you still can learn a few applications software, you can find respectable employment," IT Principal Secretary Ranjan added.

In 2017, Telangana enacted a blanket ban on all gaming, including if conducted in cyberspace, with no differentiation between skill gaming and games of chance. According to Ranjan, this was the easy thing to do back then because the state government had no means to regulate gaming.

Now, five years later, the government has realized that the banning move was an ineffective measure that only opened Telangana cyberspace to illegal offshore operators and exposed citizens to various risks. Thus, the government had no control over the field and was missing out on tax revenues.

According to Ranjan, the drafted bill has a good chance of being successfully implemented, as those who had supported the blanket ban, including the state"s police forces, would now back up a move towards a regulatory regime over gaming.

The New Trend for Regulations So Far

On February 23, while delivering his budget speech, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot announced the state"s plans to regulate online skill gaming, signaling a complete change of heart. Less than one year before that, in March 2021, Rajasthan had communicated an intention to ban all online games that involve wagering.

CM Gehlot"s announcement came less than two weeks after the High Court of Karnataka quashed all parts of the state"s Police Amendment Act, 2021, which contained prohibitions on online games, including games of skill involving transfers of money of any sort. The court decision was announced on February 14, less than six months after the blanket ban had come into force, and declared it ultra vires of the Constitution.

Previously, on September 27, 2021, the High Court of Kerala struck down a ban on rummy when played online for a wager and held that playing a game online or for stakes cannot be used to determine whether that game is not preponderantly of mere skill.

On August 3, 2021, the High Court of Madras struck down the Tamil Nadu Police and Gambling Amendment Acts as the blanket ban on gaming brought by them was found contradictory to the Constitution.

In March 2021, the state of Meghalaya adopted its Regulation of Gaming Act which came into force on December 1. The legislation introduced regulation and a licensing regime over all forms of online and land-based gaming, including on games of chance.



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