The state government of Karnataka has passed a bill to amend the Karnataka Police Act, 1963. The ruling seeks a ban on “games of chance” and does not impact the games that are “games of skill.”
According to the state’s chief minister, this move is aimed at curbing operators and abettors who run games of chance camouflaged as games of skills. However, since a clear definition to differentiate between the two wasn’t shared, it could have an adverse impact on online gaming in India.
The ruling further states that the games of skill that may result in the players losing money would fall under the jurisdiction of this now-amended law.
The move, however, is likely to impact a huge number of startups and gaming platforms like Dream11, My11Circle, MPL Pro, Bet365, Gamezy Nazara, Games 24*7, Paytm First Games and many other fantasy games. These games are experiencing the peak volume currently thanks to the second leg of IPL which is underway in the middle east.
Since the state government feels that the games of chance are nothing but betting, which is illegal in India, the new bill makes these online games both cognizable and non-bailable offences. If found guilty there is a scope of a prison term of up to three years and a fine of Rs. 1 lakh.
On the other hand, the supreme court and various other high courts have already given a decision in favour of fantasy gaming calling them a “game of skill.” However, the Kerala government had banned online rummy games under the Kerala Gaming Act.
Interestingly, even Google doesn’t allow such apps to be listed on the Play Store hence most of these applications needs to be downloaded on the Android phones directly from their websites. Despite this, these games are thriving and Karnataka itself is a hub for such games/companies with an investment of over Rs. 4000 crore and employs thousands of people.
Industry body opposes the decision
The decision to ban online gaming has not gone too well with the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) – the body that represents over 8 crore traders and 40,000 trade associations as it has come out strongly against the law. It says that the decision may impact millions of gamers along with the entire Indian online gaming industry and startups operating them.
As per records, India currently has 623 gaming startups and the fact that the new law doesn’t differentiate between a game of skill and a game of chance may hurt these companies immensely.
The industry body also felt that this ruling may force the users towards offshore betting apps that do not fall under the purview of Indian laws and can be harmful to the users.