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Gujarat HC wants state govt to act on online gambling and rummy apps

Online Gambling Poker Rummy Playing Cards

Online gambling apps, including online rummy, may come under scrutiny in Gujarat with the Gujarat High Court considering a petition asking for such games to be banned, and for the gambling law to be amended to prevent online gambling.

A writ petition, filed by advocate Amit Nair from Ahmedabad, asked the court to ban/restrict online gambling, particularly online rummy, and declare it illegal in the state under the provisions of the Gujarat Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887. The court also seemed to agree with the petitioner that a comprehensive regulatory framework is necessary to regulate and curb  gambling/rummy. Bhargav Hasukar, Nair’s lawyer, had also said that ads for gambling websites are commonplace online and on social media. They entice people “with small amount as credit to start playing rummy promising lakhs of rupees in return”.

Directing the Gujarat government to consider the petition as a representation, the court said it expects that the state government to promptly look into the issues, take the appropriate decision as per laws and regulations “in larger public interest before it is too late”. The state government’s counsel, Manisha Luvkumar Shah, said the government “shall look into the same at the earliest in accordance with the law”.

The court said that even though it cannot direct the state government to enact a particular type of legislation, it can always draw its attention to the matter, which it considered “an important topic in public interest”. The order was passed by a bench consisting of Justice Vikram Nath and Justice JB Pardiwala. Though the order is dated September 29, it only became public on Tuesday.

State gambling law needs to be changed to include cyberspace

Online gambling apps remain operational because of “deficiencies” in the state gambling prevention law, Nair’s lawyer had argued. The court acknowledged that the Gujarat Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887, does not address “it is completely silent” online gambling or rummy, though it prohibits physical cards, rummy, or gambling. Anyone playing online rummy or gambling online cannot be arrested.

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

Is rummy a skill-based game? While the Supreme Court has held that rummy is a game of skill, the question about rummy games being offered is whether they are rummy in the “truest sense” or if they are “just pure and simple gambling”. This would have to be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the “individual facts of the case”, per the court.

We have also indicated above that rummy,  in its true sense, if played, is not gambling but then it is always argued that what was being played was rummy and not gambling Gujarat HC

Children can access online gambling

Online gambling raises the same concerns as around offline gambling morality, addiction, fraud, and conflict between state and central laws with one exception: children have access to online gambling, since many of them have potentially unlimited access to the internet.

The supporters of a ban of Internet gambling maintain that outlawing the activity for all individuals is the only way to ensure that a segment of the population children will be adequately protected from corruption. Gujarat HC

Consider this from the court’s order: “It is possible that without proper monitoring they may access to the gambling Websites as readily as they could access the indecent materials.” This is the Gujarat HC essentially saying that if children can find porn, they can find online gambling apps.

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Read more: Andhra Pradesh makes online gambling illegal, but won’t block any apps and websites

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