Tamil Nadu bans online ‘games of chance’ and gambling

Governor R.N. Ravi promulgates ordinance; online games will be regulated

Updated - October 08, 2022 09:47 am IST

Published - October 08, 2022 12:18 am IST - CHENNAI

A representational photo.

A representational photo. | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Online gambling and online games of chance have been banned in Tamil Nadu. At the same time, the other online games will be regulated. 

The ban covers rummy and poker, according to an ordinance promulgated by Governor R.N. Ravi on October 1, a copy of which was made available to this newspaper on Friday. 

Click here to read the gazette notication

A top government official said the date of the law coming into effect would be notified shortly.  

Cleared at a meeting of the Cabinet on September 26 under the chairmanship of Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, the law has been formulated as a sequel to the recommendation made by a committee, led by former judge of the Madras High Court K. Chandru. This development, in turn, followed the decision of the Madras High Court in August 2021 to strike down the Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Act, which was enacted when the AIADMK was in power.

The court had held that a blanket ban on games of skill fell foul of Article 19 (1)(g) (right to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business) of the Constitution. The earlier law, too, had banned games such as rummy and poker on cyberspace with stakes. 

For the purpose of regulation of online games, the ordinance has proposed the creation of the Online Gaming Authority, which will be headed by a retired officer who was of the rank of Chief Secretary. The body will have four members, including a retired police officer not below the rank of Inspector-General; experts in information technology and online gaming; and an eminent psychologist.  

The Online Gaming Authority will issue certificates of registration to local providers of online games; identify online games of chance for recommending them to the government for being banned; and oversee the functioning of the providers of online games. An appellate authority has also been provided for in the ordinance. It will have three members, including a former judge of the High Court. 

The official said there was no estimate of the number of providers of online games in the State.  

The law has defined the terms, ‘online gambling,’ ‘online game’ and ‘online game of chance’. Those who indulge in online gambling or online game of chance will get the punishment of imprisonment of up to three months or a fine of ₹5,000 or both. If anyone makes or causes to make advertisement in any media on the banned games, the person concerned will suffer one-year imprisonment or ₹5 lakh in fine or both. For the provider, the ordinance has stipulated the punishment of imprisonment of up to three years or a fine of ₹10 lakh or both.  

The ordinance has also laid down restrictions for non-local providers of online games. As for those who fail to comply with the restrictions, the Authority, following a due process, can recommend to the State government that the Central government be requested to exercise power under the Information Technology Act, 2000, to block access of persons in the State to the services provided by the non-local providers.

Asked which court of law will award the punishment, the official replied that it is either a regular court or a designated court, the details of which will be notified subsequently. As for the timeline for the proposed Authority to issue the certificates of registration, the official said this will be mentioned in the rules which are going to be framed. 

‘Students affected’

Online games have affected the concentration of students. This was an overwhelming response given by teachers during a survey conducted by the State government as part of the exercise to formulate the law to ban online gambling, according to the ordinance.

More than 74% of the two lakh teachers, coming under the jurisdiction of the Department of School Education, stated that the students’ concentration was impacted, and 67% of the respondents said they noticed eye defects among the students. Over 74% of the teachers observed a “decrease in intelligent quotient, writing skills and creativity” of students, according to the survey. More than 76% of the respondents said there was a “significant decrease” in their self-esteem. Over 77% were of the view that an increase of anger in students was spotted while more than 72% noticed indiscipline among students. These details have been mentioned in the ordinance. The survey was conducted in addition to the government having sought the views of people through email. Subsequently, the government received 10,735 responses, and 10,708 of them favoured a total ban on online games.

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