The Karnataka legislature passed a bill amending the 1963 Karnataka Police Act to ban all forms of gambling in the state, including online gambling. The Karnataka Police (Amendment) Bill 2021 was passed by the legislature despite a similar law – the Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police (Amendment) Act 2021 – passed in February in Tamil Nadu having been passed. overturned by the Madras High Court in August as ultra vires.
The new Karnataka law aims to strengthen the Karnataka Police Law to make gambling a knowable and non-surety offense and “stem the threat of gambling via Internet, mobile applications”.
Why did the Karnataka government change the 1963 Karnataka Police Act to ban gambling?
Among the reasons cited by the government of Karnataka for a new law banning all forms of gambling, there is an order of the Dharwad High Court of December 2019 which ruled that the police cannot search gambling houses without a formal written order from a magistrate since gambling is a non-offense that can be the subject of knowledge and a surety. The order made by Judge PGM Patil in the Vageppa Gurulinga Jangaligi case against the Kagwad Police on December 10, 2019 established a series of guidelines for police and magistrates to follow when an unidentifiable offense is seized. The ordinance stated that “the SHO of the police station has no legal authority unless the judicial magistrate authorizes the police officer to investigate the unrecognizable offense”.
Recent public interest litigation to ban online gambling and betting – where the High Court sought the state government’s position on the gambling ban – also served as a catalyst for the introduction of the Amendments to the Karnataka Police Act, 1963.
According to the statement of objects and grounds provided with the changes to the Police Act, the new law is necessary to make gambling a knowable and non-surety offense other than gambling on public streets which is knowable and liable to deposit.
The new law was also introduced to “include the use of cyberspace, including computer resources or any other communication device as defined in the Information Technology Act 2000 in the gaming process in order to reduce the threat of gaming via Internet, mobile application “.
Does the new gambling law also apply to online gambling and sports betting?
The amended law covers all forms of betting or betting “in connection with any game of chance” with the exception of horse races and lotteries. The amended law also places bets on the skills of others under the category of gambling and also states that “any act of risking money or otherwise on the unknown outcome of an event, including on a gambling address ”is an offense.
Unlike the existing law which was not applicable to bets made by players involved in a game of skill, the amended law provides an exception only to the practice of any pure skill game “and not to” bets by people participating in such ”. According to the amended law “all forms of betting or betting, including in the form of tokens valued in terms of money paid before or after its issue, or electronic means and virtual currency, of electronic transfer of funds in connection with any game of chance, ”will be considered a game of chance.
What are the penalties for gambling under the amended law?
The new law increases the maximum penalty for owners of gaming centers from one to three years imprisonment and fines from Rs 1000 to Rs 1 lakh. The proposed minimum sentence is six months instead of one month currently and a fine of Rs 10,000 instead of Rs 500. For aid or encouragement of gambling, the penalty has been increased to six months. imprisonment and Rs 10,000 fine.
A first offense of running a gambling house will result in the minimum penalty of six months in prison and a fine of Rs 10,000 while a second offense will result in one year of imprisonment and a fine of Rs 15,000. A third offense will result in a prison sentence of 18 months and a fine of Rs 20,000.
Will the new amendments to curb gambling, including online gambling in Karnataka, stand the test of the law?
Last February, the government of Tamil Nadu enacted a law to impose a complete ban on all forms of gambling, including online gambling. In August, however, the law was overturned by the Madras High Court as ultra vires and unnecessary after being challenged by an online gaming company.
“It is true that, in general, games and sporting activities in physical form cannot be assimilated to games conducted in virtual mode or in cyberspace. However, when it comes to card games or board games like chess or Scrabble, there is no distinction between the skill involved in the physical form of the activity or in the virtual form. . It’s true that Arnold Palmer or Severiano Ballesteros may never have mastered the way golf is played on the computer or that 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 so disadvantaged. when they play the skill games they have chosen in virtual mode. Such a distinction is completely lost in the amending law because the original scheme of the 1930 law which limited gambling to games of chance has been overturned and all games are prohibited whether they are played for a wager or for any price, ”said a Tamil shoal. declared the Nadu District Court in its order of August 3, 2021.
The partial inclusion of games of skill as gambling acts in the amended Karnataka Police Act is likely to be the subject of close scrutiny.
How have gaming companies reacted to Karnataka’s new law banning betting on online games?
“The bill tabled in the Karnataka Assembly seeks to assimilate all games, including online chess, online farming with the same brush as online gambling. The bill made some exemptions, including online betting on horse races. I’m not sure applying a judicial spirit will see a compelling justification for this decision, ”said a corporate lawyer employed by a gaming company. “The government should look at regulation rather than legislation. The industry has submitted to the idea of regulation and has already moved towards certain stages of self-regulation. A comprehensive framework with the active participation of the industry association is a cautious way forward, ”the lawyer said.
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