The fight to stop the gambling ban in the state of Karnataka has gained another ally. Real money gaming operator Junglee Games has also approached the Karnataka High Court to appeal against the state’s online gambling law.
Junglee Games is the sixth petitioner to approach the state high court against the recent law that bans all types of gaming for stakes in Karnataka, following the similar writ petitions filed by skill-based online gaming industry body All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), three real money gaming companies, and gaming unicorn Mobile Premier League.
The petitions challenge the constitutional validity of the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act 2021, which took effect on October 5. The ban covers online games with real money gaming involved, be it online chess, fantasy sports, as well as poker and bridge. This means that even operators of real money online casino platforms like 10Cric casino run the risk of receiving the punishment of up to three years in jail along with a penalty of up to Rs 1 lakh.
The Karnataka government’s move has only resulted in sowing more confusion among stakeholders, who have now sought the high courts for clearer guidance one what is and isn’t allowed in the state.
“The playing of games of skill is also a form of speech and expression. The Amending Act, by imposing unreasonable fetters on this freedom of speech and expression is violative of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and is not protected under Article 19(2),” according to the petition filed by AIGF.
A report by ENV Media, a media company engaged in lead generation and performance marketing within the iGaming industry, mapped out India’s richest cities and large online gambling communities and placed Karnataka as one of the top 4 states with the biggest online gambling penetration and presence.
Maharashtra leads the group with 17.4 percent in traffic generation, followed by Telangana with 9.9 percent, while Karnataka and West Bengal each has 9.3 percent share when it comes to traffic generation, according to the report.
This is an important factor as to why the country, not just state governments, need to regulate—not ban—the nascent online gaming industry. The popularity of online gaming in India is growing, and the government needs to harness this growth by developing an updated, uniform regulation that covers all segments of gaming.
The good news is that there are precedents that online gaming firms can utilize in the fight to end the state gambling ban. For instance, the Madras High Court has ordered Tamil Nadu to cease its ban on online gaming in the state, stating that the ban goes against Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution which confers the right to practice any lawful profession, occupation, trade or business to all citizens. Incidentally, Junglee Games was also one of the petitioners that challenged the law banning games for stakes in Tamil Nadu.
“The problem with the amendment is the fact that it unilaterally declared games of skill as tantamount to gambling if buy-in is involved. This petition will harm the domestic online gaming industry, and we took this action to protect its interests,” AIGF CEO Roland Landers told Inc42.