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Delhi HC routes another petition against online gambling to state govt as representation

Playing Cards Gambling

We missed this earlier.

The Delhi High Court disposed of another petition against online gambling last week, and essentially reminded the Delhi government of how online gambling remains unregulated in the national capital. Instead of passing any directions, the court told the Delhi government to treat the petition as a representation and act upon the issues raised in the plea, which included demands that online gambling should be prohibited and better regulated.

In November last year, the court had directed that a similar petition in the same court be considered a representation to the Delhi government.

Filed by Tarun Chandiok, the latest petition had asked for prohibition of websites and apps offering online gambling apps in the name of fantasy gaming or games of skill, since they are allegedly in violation of the Public Gambling Act, 1857, and the Delhi Public Gambling Act, 1955. The plea explicitly mentioned several apps in question Adda52 Poker, PokerStars, Zynga Poker, Teen Patti Gold, Poker Rummy, and Texas Hold’em Poker (per PTI) calling for wider regulation of online gambling. It had asked the court to:

  1. Prohibit TV channels, radio, and internet companies from running ads, promos, and campaigns of such “illegally run” gaming websites and mobile apps,
  2. Initiate penal action under the aforementioned laws against violators, and
  3. Establish a policy or gaming commission to comprehensively regulate and address grievances of online players, and also to guard minors.

Chandiok was represented by lawyer Rakesh Tiku, who had argued that the games mentioned involved no skill and were only games of chance, and hence should be banned. However, the court observed that there is some amount of skill involved in every game, according to PTI.

Tiku reportedly made a representation to the central government and the Delhi government in September, after which there was no response. The Delhi government’s told the court that the matter had been forwarded to Kailash Gehlot, who heads the transport and IT ministries in the Delhi government.

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On October 8, the division bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan ordered the petition to be treated as representation, and that the grievances be decided in accordance with existing laws and regulations.

In November last year, the court had asked the government to take a decision about online gambling, including poker, and see if they needed to be banned or partially restricted. At the time, the AAP government’s counsel, Ramesh Singh, had told the court it could only act if the site was being offered in Delhi or if people were gambling online.

Regulation of online gambling

Betting and gambling are state subjects in India, and most states, including Delhi, have their own laws dealing with gambling. While gambling and operating gaming houses are outlawed in Delhi under the Delhi Public Gambling Act, 1955, the law leaves online gaming and betting out of its purview. Many state gambling laws, having been passed in the previous century, are silent on online gaming, while disallowing physical gambling.

The Gujarat High Court had recently also asked the Gujarat state government to treat a petition against online gambling as a representation and act upon regulating it. The court acknowledged that the state’s own gambling act, the Gujarat Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887, is “completely silent” on online gambling or rummy, though it prohibits physical cards, rummy, or gambling.

The high court said that the Gujarat Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887, needs to make changes to bring online gambling within its ambit, as Telangana has done. The Telangana Gaming Act, 1974, was amended in 2017 to explicitly bring online gambling within its ambit. The Gujarat HC pointed out that it was changed to include:

  • cyberspaces as a gambling venue
  • “online gaming for money or any other stakes” within the definition of gaming

Like Telangana, the state of Andhra Pradesh also banned online gambling, including online rummy, poker, and other real-money gaming, by amending the Andhra Pradesh Gaming Act, 1974. After announcing the ban, State Information Minister Perni Venkataramaiah had said that “organisers” of online gambling activity would be jailed for a year, and for two years in case of repeated convictions; while players themselves would be jailed for six months.

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