Madras HC | “Regulation and monitoring of online gambling is the need of the hour, T.N. Govt. must pass suitable legislation to control such online gaming through license”

Madras High Court: While deciding the instant petition seeking quashment of proceedings under Section 12 of the Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, 1930, the Court delved into the issue of permissibility of online gambling in Tamil Nadu. The Bench of B. Pugalendhi, J., observed that the Tamil Nadu Government must pass suitable legislation, regulating and controlling such online gaming through license, in accordance with the law of the land and the judicial precedents in this regard. The Court also clarified that it is not against the virtual games, however there should be a regulatory body to monitor the legal gaming activities, be it in the real world or the virtual world.

As per the facts of the case, the petitioner and 4 others were arrested by the police under the provisions of Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, 1930. Counsel for the petitioner L.P. Maurya, submitted that, that the place mentioned in the FIR is neither a common area as per Section 3 of the T.N. Gaming Act, nor it can be termed as a public street/ place, as contemplated under Section 12 of the 1930 Act. Therefore the petitioner’s arrest was unnecessary. However, K.K. Ramakrishnan, Additional Public Prosecutor, contended that the accused persons were playing cards with stakes and there is a legal presumption under Section 6 of the 1930 Act that the persons found gaming with cards in any place are presumed to be playing in a common gaming house.

Perusing the contentions and the facts of the case, the Court quashed the proceedings initiated against the petitioner under the 1930 Act. However, the focus of the Bench remained on the regulation of online gambling such as RummyPassion, Nazara, LeoVegas, and Spartan Poker etc. The Court also noted that the number of advertisements promoting online gambling on social media has increased in the past few years and it seems that they are mainly targeting the unemployed youth under the pretext of earning money from the comfort of their homes. The Court further considered the status report submitted by the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Law and Order, wherein it was stated that online rummy cannot be considered as a game of skill and that at present, Tamil Nadu has no specific Rule/ Regulation to address the issue.

The Court observed that, “gaming industry in India is undergoing a dramatic transition, not only in terms of its audience, but also in terms of the modes of participation and engagement”. The Public Gaming Act, 1867, is the Central Act which has been adopted by several State Governments and the other States have enacted their own legislation to regulate gaming / gambling, within its territory. But when it comes to regulating online gambling, the States of Sikkim, Nagaland and Telangana are step ahead with respective legislations like Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Act, 2008, Nagaland Prohibition of Gambling and Promotion and Regulation of Online Games of Skill Act, 2016 and Telangana Gaming (Amendment) Act, 2017. The Court noted that regulation of online gambling is the need of the hour because if unchecked, these virtual gambling sites have the potential to trap frustrated unemployed youths who may end up incurring heavy financial losses and end up becoming criminals. The Court pointed out that if the virtual gambling industry is regulated, then, it can encourage investment in the sector, which could lead to technological advancements as well as generation of revenue and employment.[D. Siluvai Venance v. State, 2020 SCC OnLine Mad 1546 , decided on 24-07-2020]

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