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Kerala bans online rummy for stakes, amends state Gaming Act

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The Kerala government has outlawed online rummy for stakes, in response to the petition calling out the gray regulatory areas in online rummy. In a notification made dated February 23, the state government has amended the Kerala Gaming Act, 1960, to include online rummy involving stakes.

The Kerala Gaming Act outlaws all forms of betting/wagering, but exempts lotteries and games of mere skill. Section 14A of the Act empowers the state government to exempt a game of skill from all of any provisions of the law, if they are satisfied that the element of skill is predominant over the element of chance. ‘Rummy’ was exempted under this provision in 1976.

“Government have now decided in public interest to exclude ‘online rummy when played for stakes’ from the exemption already granted to the game of Rummy and also to make suitable amendment to the said notification,” the Kerala Home Department said in the notification. MediaNama has seen a copy of the notification.

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Under the law, penalties for running a gaming house is Rs 500, a prison term of 3 months, or both. Being found in a common gaming house is punishable with a fine of Rs 500, a prison term of a month, or both.

In February, the Kerala High Court had directed the state government to decide whether online gambling and betting fall under the purview of the Kerala Gaming Act, in response to a petition asking for regulation of online gaming, particularly rummy in the state.

Filed by one Pauly Vadakkan, a film director, the petition pleaded the Kerala HC to declare online betting and gambling, particularly online rummy, unlawful and illegal. The plea also asked for direction to the Kerala state government to ban these online betting or gambling “of any nature” until an appropriate regulatory regime is established and regulations are framed by the state government. Vadakkan also felt endorsements of online gaming platforms by celebrities such as Virat Kohli and Aju Varghese encouraged “unsuspecting people” to sign up for the games.

On February 10, Vadakkan’s lawyer Jomy K. Jose reiterated that online gaming platforms are a “growing menace”. Jose cited recent decisions by the Madras High Court and Gujarat High Court on similar petitions on online gaming.

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