Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy has reportedly asked IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to ban 132 online gaming and gambling websites, including fantasy cricket leagues like Paytm First Games and Cricket11.club. Samayam first reported this development with a copy of the letter, which we have reached out to MEITY and Reddy’s office to verify. Reddy’s letter is significant, as it makes a pretty extraordinary request of the central government: that not only should gambling and betting websites be blocked in the state, but also “online gaming”.
In September, the state government had made online gambling a criminal offence, bringing criminal liability on anyone who gambled or placed bets online. But interestingly, online gaming seems to be in the scope of the final ordinance as well — and that’s a much larger category that could make a criminal out of any gamer, even if it is only enforced against real money gaming apps. “I would request you to direct all the Internet Service Providers to block all the online gaming, gambling and betting websites and apps from access in Andhra Pradesh,” Reddy said. Indeed, even the website of the game publisher Electronics Arts (EA) is one of the 132 websites named by the chief minister.
Andhra Pradesh’s use of “online gaming” in its ordinance may be an overreaching attempt to bypass the legal victories won by real money betting and fantasy sports sites. There also seems to be a change in decision from last month. Sites like Dream11 (which is not on Reddy’s list, presumably because it doesn’t allow residents of the state to participate in paid contests in the first place) have won repeated legal victories, most recently at the Rajasthan High Court, that have upheld that they are not gambling websites, but rather games of skill. Having just online “gambling” and “betting” be illegal might have thwarted Andhra Pradesh’s objective, which seems to extend to fantasy leagues with real money stakes, something it may only be able to do by casting a wide net.