Karnataka HC allows betting on online skill games, calls state ban unconstitutional

High Court of Karnataka (Image courtesy of IANS)

By line : Abhimanyu Sharma

New Delhi: In relief for online game companies, Karnataka Supreme Court ruled any ban on betting on online games of skill unconstitutional. Annulling a state law that had criminalized betting on games of skill online, the High Court ruled that the state legislature was free to align any law with the Constitution to control gambling .

A divisional bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Krishna S Dixit struck down the provisions of the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act 2021. The overturned law had criminalized betting on online skill games by prescribing a 3-year jail term and a penalty of up to Rs. 1 lakh for offenders. A batch of petitions from the All India Gaming Federation, Play Games 247, Head Digital and jungle games had challenged state law citing various superior court verdicts. While sports based on luck like betting and gambling continue to be prohibited under the Public Gambling Act 1867, the Supreme Court of India in 1968 ruled that Rummy is a game of skill and decided in 1996 that horse racing was a sport of skill.

Apart from Karnataka High Court, Kerala High Court and Madras High Court have also struck down state laws to allow betting on online skill games. Petitions against a similar law passed by Andhra Pradesh are currently pending in the State High Court, while the Tamil Nadu government’s appeal against the Madras High Court order is pending in the State High Court. Supreme Court.

Last year, online gambling companies submitted to the Madras High Court that rummy was allowed to be played physically in clubs and could not be selectively banned online, while the government of state had argued that playing a skill-based game with money at stake. . In the absence of proper legislation, the fate of various games of skill in India has had a checkered history. For example, the legal status of poker continues to be in doubt, as the High Court of Gujarat had classified it as a game of chance while the High Court of Calcutta had ruled it to be a game of gambling. ‘address.

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