Several websites that offered cash games have been banned for residents of Karnataka as gambling is now a cognizable and non-bailable offence in the State. The Karnataka Police (Amendment), Act 2021 has received the Governor’s assent and was notified by the State government on Tuesday, October 5.
The Act now bans all forms of wagering or betting in connection with any game of chance except horse racing and lottery. The amendment also prohibits risking money on the unknown result of an event including on a game of skill.
The Kerala high court on September 27 lifted the Kerala government’s ban on Rummy calling it a game of mere skill but the Karnataka government has made no changes to its original bill.
“We are aware of the decisions of different courts about gambling. We certainly know what game is a game of skill and what is a game of chance. Hundred per cent of the game of skill like racing, we don’t intend to punish. We know it involves skill. Playing Rummy may be recreational it may not be a game of chance but if you bet on playing on Rummy, it becomes a game of chance and is punishable. If you bet either with money or coins or some other way, it results in profit by chance, it’s a game of chance. Betting on horse racing is different. The jockey, the horse, its pedigree is all taken into consideration before betting in a horse race. There is no question of skill in playing Rummy. Your intelligence, mind may be involved, however, you pick the card and throw the card, it involves chance,” said JC Madhuswamy, Minister of Law and Parliamentary Affairs.
The registration fee to join an online game or online gaming itself is not banned, Madhuswamy says. Betting on the outcome of any such games is punishable under the new law with imprisonment of up to three years and/or a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh.
While the bill was passed in the Assembly earlier in September, the lack of clarity had led to confusion among industry experts. However, soon after the amendment was notified, several websites have banned users from Karnataka from playing cash games. Websites that offered cash games now detect the user’s device location and notifies that the user’s jurisdiction does not allow them to play with cash but can continue “playing for fun”.
Websites such as Ace2three and RummyCircle notifies users stating, “As a part of our legal compliance, we need to ensure that our players are playing only from those jurisdictions where we offer our services, looks like you have logged in from a jurisdiction which does not allow playing games on our app, this feature is not available from the location you are currently accessing, cash games are not accessible from your location, you can continue to play ‘free to play fun chip games’ are some of the messages displayed on the website while trying to play games involving money.
The government has clarified that the spot of playing would be considered for booking the offender since it’s not possible to have a blanket ban on all sites involved in betting, gambling, which may or may not be in the state’s jurisdiction.
The new law is likely to be challenged in courts by the gaming industry.