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Why is there no law to regulate Online Games such as Online Rummy, Spartan Poker, Ace2Three? asks Madras High Court [Read Order]

"This Court is not against the virtual games, but, the anguish of this Court is that there should be a regulatory body to monitor and regulate legal gaming activities, be it in the real or virtual world" the Court said.

Meera Emmanuel

A plea to quash a case registered over alleged real-word gambling yesterday led the Madras High Court to raise eyebrows over why the State does not have a law to regulate online games and online gambling (D Siluvai Venance v. State).

Justice B Pugalendhi proceeded to call on the Government to introduce suitable legislation in the field, while also remarking,

"This Court is not against the virtual games, but, the anguish of this Court is that there should be a regulatory body to monitor and regulate the legal gaming activities, be it in the real world or the virtual world."
Madras High Court

The main case involved allegations that the petitioner had participated in gambling by way of playing cards in a public place. The case boiled down to whether the game had taken place in a "common gaming house" under the Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, 1930 (Section 12).

Given that the petitioner - who claimed to have not participated in the game at all - was found in a thorny bush, the Court found that it could not be said that any gambling act had taken place in a "common gaming house." As such, the case against the petitioner was quashed.

However, Justice Pugalendhi took an interest in the allied issue of why online gambling has not been restricted, while real-world gambling has been banned.

"Not only in the State of Tamil Nadu, but also in the entire Country, such online games, viz., RummyPassion, Nazara, LeoVegas, Spartan Poker, Ace2Three, PokerDangal, Pocket52, My11Circle, Genesis Casino, etc., are mushrooming and there are so many advertisements appearing in almost all the social media and websites. It appears these advertisements are mostly targeting the unemployed youth, inducing them to play such games, on the pretext of earning money comfortably from their home", noted the Madurai Bench of the High Court.

Following queries posed over the issue, the State police filed an affidavit which noted that there was a growing addiction for online gaming and online gambling. Whereas online gaming companies are expected to comply with multiple laws, most of them were not complying with such techno-legal requirements, the police submitted.

While adding that games such as online rummy could not be considered a game of skill (since there was bettting involved), the police also admitted that there was no rule in place presently to regulate or licence online skill games such as rummy, bridge, nap, poker, fantasy sports, etc.

The Judge went on to observe that, "Neither the Public Gaming Act, 1867, nor the Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, 1930, specifically speaks about such virtual area, as the advent of such online games are very recent. In fact, the Hon'ble Supreme Court, while dealing with an appeal, has held that the issue pertaining to online rummy has not arisen at all, till date."

While taking note that physical sports have various laws regulating them, Justice Pugalendhi emphasised that having such a legal framework for "emerging online games / virtual games is the need of the hour."

"A comprehensive regulatory framework by a regulatory body is necessary to regulate the online sports and to curb any illegal activities as well. In fact, such regulation of online sports would encourage investment in the sector, which could lead to technological advancements as well as generation of revenue and employment."

the Court added.

The Judge, however, declined to intervene further on the issue, save to urge that the Government introduce a law to regulate online gaming after due consultation with the stakeholders.

"... this Court hopes and trusts that this Government shall take note of the present alarming situation and pass suitable legislation, thereby, regulating and controlling such online gaming through license, of course, keeping in mind the law of the land as well as the judicial precedents in this regard ... Needless to say that if the Government intends to pass a legislation in this regard, all the stakeholders should be put in notice and their views should be ascertained. ", said the Court.

Read the order:

D Siluvai Venance v. State - July 24 order.pdf
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