The government, however, will deal with operators and accomplices who organize games of chance disguised as skill games, the chief minister said. Even games of skill that involve the risk of the player losing money would invite action under the law, he said.
The Chief Minister, responding to a question from Sharath Bachegowda (Hoskote), said foreign online gambling operators cannot have free rein if their local operators are arrested and punished. This is how the government successfully tackled the matka threat, he said.
Interior Minister Araga Jnanendra called on the House to pass the bill. It defines online gaming comprehensively, capturing the latest technological advancements, and mentions all types of electronic items, including cellphones, computers and tablets, to ensure there is no gaps. It defines prohibited online games as “any act or risk of money … on the unknown outcome of an event, including a game of skill”.
The bill makes most offenses, such as the operation of such games, the protection of such operations, and aiding and abetting such online games, both knowable and not subject to bond. He proposes a prison sentence of up to three years and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh, for offenders.
But Congressman and former IT minister Priyank Kharge said the bill did not properly reflect the distinction between games of skill and gambling. In a tweet, he said the government needed to be more specific and identify which games encourage betting. The government should form a committee with industry stakeholders and come up with a law that restricts online betting instead of a bill that will not stand the test of the law, he said. .
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Earlier this year, Kerala had banned online rummy games through the Kerala Gaming Act. A Bengaluru-based company disputed this, but the Kerala High Court refused to lift the ban.