The Karnataka government’s plan to clamp down on online gambling got a thumbs up from the state Assembly on Wednesday (September 22) when it passed an amendment to the Karnataka Police Act, 1963.
Home Minister Araga Jnanendra, who tabled the bill, said, “There is a lot of gambling happening using electronic devices and this has to be controlled.” The demand for a ban on online gambling has been gathering steam as the Karnataka police found it increasingly difficult to tackle the menace after a recent state high court order barred the police from carrying out raids on gambling dens in Dharwad.
As per the amended Act, gambling is now a cognisable and non-bailable offence. As per the improved definition, gambling “includes the use of cyberspace including computer resources or any communication device as defined in the Information Technology Act, 2000 in the process of gaming to curb the menace of gaming through the internet, mobile apps”.
The new law prescribes three-year jail for gambling and a fine of up to Rs one lakh. Horse races, however, have been exempted from the provisions of the Act.
The Karnataka Police (Amendment) Bill, 2021, is likely to affect the fortunes of several online gaming platforms like Dream 11, Games 24×7 etc.
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai clarified that the amended Act will not affect online games that comply with “game of skills”.
Traders, however, do not agree with the CM’s contention. The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) said the Act does not differentiate between a “game of skill” and a “game of chance”. Traders say they support a ban on “Game of Chance”, which is nothing but gambling. However, not allowing ‘game of kills’ will threaten the existence of the Indian gaming start-up sector, the CAIT stated.
Traders also fear that the Act will encourage illegal offshore gambling and betting apps that operate in grey markets.