A massive row has erupted in Tamil Nadu due to the delay in passing the ‘Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Online Gambling and Regulation of Online Games Bill, 2022’ as Governor TN Ravi has not yet given his assent. Weeks after the Governor returned the MK Stalin-led government’s proposed Bill questioning its competence, the Tamil Nadu Assembly on Thursday once again unanimously passed it to ban online gambling.
As per the Bill, all games of chance are prohibited and playing them is also an offence which will attract three months imprisonment or a fine of Rs 5,000, or both. Tamil Nadu has brought this Bill against the backdrop of multiple suicides attributed allegedly to loss of money due to online gambling. Piloting the Bill, CM MK Stalin appealed to all parties to support it stating that he was moving it with a “heavy heart” while referring to the loss of lives.
The Bill was first passed by the Tamil Nadu Assembly on October 19, 2022, and sent to Governor TN Ravi for his assent. However, the governor returned the Bill on March 6, 2023.
Notably, an ordinance (prohibiting online gambling, wager-based online games of chance of Rummy and Poker) was promulgated by Ravi on October 1, 2022, and a gazette notification was made by the government on October 3. The Tamil Nadu Assembly met on October 17, 2022, for a brief session and the Bill was passed.
The adoption of the Bill was necessitated after the Madras High Court had struck down in August 2021, the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Act 2021 which banned wager or placing bets in cyberspace. Such provisions were held by the High Court as ultra vires the Constitution. The court had said that appropriate legislation may be passed by the government conforming to the Constitutional sense of propriety in the field of betting and gambling.
After Bill’s passage, it was sent to Raj Bhavan for the Governor’s assent and the government had repeatedly urged Governor Ravi to clear it.
Five things you need to know about online gambling
Apart from Tamil Nadu, there are many states in India that have passed laws banning online games/gambling citing the people losing money and committing suicides. The decisions were also challenged in courts by the companies.
- The Puducherry government is soon going to bring in a legislation banning online gaming in the union territory
- Telangana was the first state to announce the ban on online gambling and betting in 2017. Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra later banned online gaming in 2020.
- States like Goa, Sikkim, Daman, Meghalaya, and Nagaland, have drafted specific laws to regulate public gambling in their jurisdictions.
- Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh are a few states that have adopted the Public Gambling Act with some amendments.
- The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council is likely to hold its next meeting in June 2023, where the long pending issue of taxation of online gaming, horse racing and casinos will be taken up.