KERALA

Police crack down on online lottery outlets

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, AUG. 21. The police have started cracking down on the retail outlets selling illegal online lotteries and other State lotteries in the district on the basis of the complaints filed by the District Lottery Officers in the respective local stations.

The police raided and closed five outlets of a major online lottery operator at East Fort and another three at Attingal on Friday.

At Kallambalam, three outlets of the same operator were raided by the police and 36 persons, who were participating in lottery games, arrested. The District Lottery Officers had in the last two days filed 540 fresh police complaints across the State, following which almost all the outlets remained closed today.

The outlets of yet another operator were closed on Friday itself.

High Court directive

The Directorate of State Lotteries swung into action this week following a High Court order issued on August 16, which said that criminal cases might be initiated against those conducting online lotteries in violation of Section 4 of the Central Lotteries Regulation Act of 1998.

The High Court had pointed out that the operators of online lotteries had only challenged the validity of the State rules regulating the sale of lottery tickets. Any violation of Section 4 of the Lotteries Act would invite police prosecution and even those purchasing the tickets might be prosecuted under Section 7(3) of the Act, it had been pointed out.

The district lottery officers had, as early as March itself, filed around 544 police complaints across the State for initiating criminal action against the retail outlets selling illegal online lotteries. However, only 14 FIRs had been registered by the police.

Stay order

The reluctance on the part of the police in filing cases had been due to the stay order issued by the Supreme Court on a petition filed by online lottery operators. However, the decks for initiating police action were cleared by the August 16 judgment. "After the initial complaints we had filed, more than 250 new lotteries were introduced by these operators in the State, in blatant violation of the provisions of the Central Act. We have filed detailed complaints before the police," an official at the Directorate of State Lotteries said.