The Tamil Nadu government on Wednesday told the Madras High Court that it is working on a law banning or regulating online gambling, which Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami had announced earlier this month after the court first called for regulation. The Additional Advocate General for the state, Sricharan Rangarajan, said the state government may have to pass an ordinance to this effect, as the state assembly is not in session. This was first reported by Bar & Bench. 

The court on Wednesday demanded “a commitment” from the Tamil Nadu government, asking for an affidavit detailing the steps the Palaniswami administration will take to regulate online gambling, as well as the time-frames. The petition, filed by S. Muthukumar, petition calls for action against online rummy platforms such as PlayGames24x7 and was heard by a division bench of the Madurai bench, consisting of Justice N. Kirubakaran and Justice B. Pugalendhi. The Chief Minister Palaniswami had said that a new law would criminalise online gambling in the state, without offering up any further detail.

PS Raman, appearing on behalf of The Online Rummy Federation (an industry body for online rummy apps) stated that it had submitted a representation to the state chief secretary towards the regulation of online rummy. The court had noted that Indians may not be advanced enough to understand the regulation and also asked the central government to clarify its stance in the matter, pointing out that there could be conflict between central and state laws, if the central government later decides to regulate the industry.

Earlier this month, during a hearing of Muthukumar’s petition, the court had directly called for a law prohibiting or regulating online gambling. It had said that it “hopes that appropriate, adequate and immediate measures including bringing a legislation to prohibit or regulate Online Gambling would be taken by the Government before the next hearing in order to ensure that no precious life hereinafter will be lost”.

On Thursday, in a hearing for another related petition — filed by Mohamed Razvi — that highlights endorsements of online gambling platforms by cricketers and celebrities, the court observed that “if you appear as an ambassador on an ad, then people will become victim to online gambling apps”. Razvi’s petition brought attention to multiple suicides in the state, allegedly due to losses incurred on gambling online. Importantly, it called for action against numerous crickets and celebrities including Virat Kohli as well as former cricketer and current Board of Control for Cricket in India president Sourav Ganguly, for endorsing such “unethical” and “immoral” games.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi had appeared for Sourav Ganguly and one other celebrity, asking for a few weeks to file an affidavit on their behalf. Rohatgi said he noted the spirit in which the court was raising concern around celebrity endorsements. Sricharan Rangarajan said the Consumer Protection Act, which was amended in 2019, has led to the formation of the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA). Complaints about such advertisements could be something for the authority to look at, he said. 

Andhra Pradesh banned online gambling, gaming in September

The Madras High Court and the Tamil Nadu government are among the several state governments and high courts that are increasingly paying attention to curb or regulate online gambling and real money gaming. In September, the Andhra Pradesh government issued an ordinance criminalising online gambling, and even brought online gaming within its scope. Just last week, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy wrote to Union Information & Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, asking for the central government to ban 132 online gambling and gaming websites, including fantasy cricket leagues such as Paytm First Games and Cricket11.club. The neighbouring state of Telangana had banned online gambling in 2017 by amending its gaming law.

Read more: Madras HC calls on The Online Rummy Federation in pleas against online gambling services