CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Tuesday overturned an amendment to Tamil Nadu’s gaming law that banned online gambling, including online rummy and online poker with stakes, ruling that the amendment inserted for the first time in law by the previous AIADMK government via an ordinance in November 2020, was “ultra vires” to the constitution.
The tribunal composed of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy said that the state had completely failed to meet the “least intrusive” measure by imposing a sweeping blanket ban, and therefore l The amendment violates Article 19 (1) (g). of the Constitution which gives people the right to exercise any profession.
The verdict came on a batch of petitions from online game companies challenging the blanket ban.
The court said the legislation “must be seen as something done by the legislature in a capricious, irrational manner and without an adequate governing principle, so that it is excessive and disproportionate …”
The court also used international athletes to distinguish between the skills to play sports and games physically on the field, board games such as cards and scrabble and games in cyberspace.
“It is true that Arnold Palmer or Severiano Ballesteros may never have mastered the way golf is played on the computer or Messi or Ronaldo can be dominated by a team of infants in a virtual soccer game, but Viswanathan Anand or Omar Sharif would not be at a disadvantage when playing the skill games of their choice in virtual mode, ”the court said.
This distinction, the court ruled, is completely lost in the amending law, as the original scheme of the 1930 law to limit gambling to games of chance was overturned and all games were banned if played for a bet or for a price.
“There seems to be little doubt that Rummy and Poker are games of skill as they involve considerable memory, calculating percentages, the ability to follow cards on the table and constantly adapt to changing possibilities. invisible cards, “said the court.
The court added that although poker has not been recognized in any previous judgment in India as a game of skill, an American case has even convinced the Law Commission to accept poker as a game of skill in its 276th. report.
The previous AIADMK government made the amendment on the grounds that teens and young adults were losing money in online betting games and cited cases where some of them died by suicide.
“All that can be said is that the amending law is so unmistakably bold that it excludes any element of choice that an individual can exercise,” the court said adding that some regulation can still be made. exercised.
The All India Gaming Federation, an umbrella industry body whose self-regulatory charter includes Fantasy Sports, Online Poker, Rummy, welcomed the judgment.
“He recalls that the court is not against online games and calls on the government to design a regulatory framework to clarify the online gambling industry sunrise in order to encourage investments leading to technological advances as well as to generating income and jobs, ”said Roland Landers, CEO of the All India Gaming Federation.