All India Gaming Federation challenges constitutional validity of T.N. Ordinance banning online games

It says poker and rummy are games of skill and not games of chance, as categorised by the State government in order to justify the ban imposed on them

November 10, 2022 12:35 am | Updated November 11, 2022 08:54 am IST - CHENNAI

A view of the Madras High Court. File

A view of the Madras High Court. File | Photo Credit: PICHUMANI K

All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) has approached the Madras High Court challenging the constitutional validity of Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Online Gambling and Regulation of Online Games Ordinance, 2022. It has urged the court to stay the operation of the ordinance until the disposal of its main case to declare it as unconstitutional.

The writ petition has been listed for admission before the first Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice T. Raja and D. Bharatha Chakravarthy on Thursday.

Filing an affidavit on behalf of the Mumbai-based AIGF, its general secretary Sunil Krishnamurthy said it was a registered non-profit society, established in 2016, to protect consumers of gaming.

It also seeks to represent the interests of various gaming companies, including the online gaming companies that offer skill-based games.

The AIGF claimed to have 51 members who offer such games and said that it had been relentlessly working to ensure that online gaming was carried on in an ethical and responsible manner.

The petitioner federation further stated that all its members were required to follow a charter that permits them to offer only skill-based games and not games of chance. The charter mandates that the games should not be offered to those below 18 years of age and those residing outside the country.

There were also many other features in the charter that require the gaming companies to inform the players about responsible gaming and warn them against the deleterious effects of gaming. It also insists on making available self-administered tests for addiction for the gamers on the online platform.

When things stood thus, the State government amended the Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, 1930, in 2021 and banned even games of skill such as rummy and poker if they were played for wager, bet, money or other stakes. A Division Bench of the High Court struck down the amendment in August last year.

Now, the government had promulgated the 2022 Ordinance specifically categorizing rummy and poker as games of chance. Questioning such categorisation, AIGF claimed that even the Law Commission of India in its 276th report had stated that poker and rummy were games of skill in which more skillful players get to win against novices.

The federation also stated that the West Bengal Gambling and Prize Competitions Act of 1957 excludes poker from the definition of ‘gaming or gambling’ and Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Rules of 2009 allow poker and rummy to be played under a licence.

The Nagaland Prohibition of Gaming and Promotion and Regulation of Online Games of Skill Act of, 2015 too categorises poker and rummy as games of skill, it added.

“Therefore, it is submitted that a majority of the States in India treat poker and rummy as games of skill and have kept it outside the ambit of betting and gambling. As such, poker and rummy competitions are just like any other business activity, the protection of which is guaranteed under Article 19(l) (g) of the Constitution,” it’s affidavit read.

The AIGF contended that the 2022 Ordinance ignores the consistent legislative practices followed by other States and the judgments of the Supreme Court as well as the High Court on the issue. The federation said that the Ordinance promulgated in October this year would force several of its members to stop their business activities.

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