Karnataka high court verdict on online gambling ban likely today

Published on Feb 13, 2022 11:53 PM IST

The Basavaraj Bommai-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state government had tabled and passed The Karnataka Police (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which, among other changes, has banned “any act of risking money, or otherwise on the unknown result of an event including on a game of skill.”

The online gaming industry, which gained significant traction during the Covid-19 pandemic-induced lockdown, is slated to grow from 360 million gamers to 510 million by 2022, according to a 2021 report by the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) and EY. (AFP)
The online gaming industry, which gained significant traction during the Covid-19 pandemic-induced lockdown, is slated to grow from 360 million gamers to 510 million by 2022, according to a 2021 report by the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) and EY. (AFP)
ByHT Correspondent, Udupi

The Karnataka High Court (HC) is likely to pronounce its verdict on the state government’s ban on online gaming that had conflicted with the latter’s reputation of being the startup hub of the country and its archaic policies, which were impeding the sector’s growth.

The Basavaraj Bommai-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state government had tabled and passed The Karnataka Police (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which, among other changes, has banned “any act of risking money, or otherwise on the unknown result of an event including on a game of skill.”

This has added to apprehensions as it proposes to include skill in what was earlier only on a game of chance.

The proposal was vehemently opposed by Congress, the principal opposition party in the state, during the monsoon session of the state legislature in September 2021.

Home minister Araga Jnanendra has defended the bill despite concerns being raised over the financial impact of the same as well as the dent of Bengaluru’s image as the tech and startup capital of the country.

A private complainant, Manjunath, filed a complaint with the Annapoorneshwari Nagar police station on October 7 for violating the new act that was notified on October 5 by the state government.

The court had earlier extended the stay on any possible coercive action by law enforcement authorities against the founders of online gaming app, Dream 11 Bhavit Sheth & Harsh Jain after the petition seeking their arrest over a complaint registered that the company had violated the new ban on online gaming and gambling in Karnataka.

The online gaming industry, which gained significant traction during the Covid-19 pandemic-induced lockdown, is slated to grow from 360 million gamers to 510 million by 2022, according to a 2021 report by the All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) and EY. The report added that 85% of these are mobile gamers.

It also estimates that online real money game players are expected to grow from 80 million in 2020 to 150 million by 2023.

Estimates indicate that Karnataka, known for its prowess in technology, accounts for around 15% of the country’s market. According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IMAI), there are 92 gaming companies registered in Bengaluru which employ over 4,000 people and have, in the last three years alone, attracted 3000 crores in investments.

Forums like AIGF and others have approached the court for securing a stay on the ban itself.

Another bench of the HC is hearing a bunch of petitions from companies and other stakeholders challenging the constitutional validity of the amendments made to the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act 2021 that bans online gaming and gambling and imposes heavy fines of up to 1 lakh and maximum imprisonment of nearly three years.

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