Only online gambling banned, clarifies Tamil Nadu govt

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The Tamil Nadu government on Friday said no complete ban on online games has been proposed but only online gambling has been proscribed in the state, and sought Governor R N Ravi’s assent to the Bill to prohibit online gambling and regulate online games in the state.

As per the doctrine of proportionality, no total ban has been proposed, state Law Minister S Raghupathy said. “Games are not completely banned. They have been differentiated as game of chance and game of skill and only online gambling is banned. Therefore, it is a proportional restriction,” the minister clarified.

Also, the government submitted its response to certain doubts or clarifications raised by the Governor on Thursday on enforcing a ban on online gambling in the state, he said.

The Bill, aiming to give effect to the government ordinance, seeks to prohibit gambling and regulate online gambling. It was unanimously passed by the Assembly and sent to the Governor for assent, recently.

“On Thursday morning, we received a letter from the Governor asking for certain clarifications. We submitted our response within 24 hours. This shows the the DMK government under Chief Minister M K Stalin is keen on enforcing the ban in the interest of the people,” Raghupathy told reporters here.

The Bill passed by the previous AIADMK government could not stand legal scrutiny and hence the present regime had to enact a new legislation. “We addressed the issues raised by the Madras High Court and also included certain clauses and sent the Bill for assent,” the law minister claimed.

The Governor raised an issue pertaining to the judgment of the Madras High Court that the legislation already enacted on the same subject is not constitutional. In particular, a complete ban without distinction between game of chance and skill is against Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.

“We replied that the proposed Act is within the ambit of the Constitution, and has been framed considering the entries in List 2 of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. The power of the state government on making laws on gambling can be traced to Entry 34 List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution on betting and gambling: public order, public health, theaters and dramatic performances,” he said.

“This Act is not against the Constitution. This draft law to ban online gambling is constitutional,” Raghupathy stressed.

The draft law has been created to ban only online gambling in the current ordinance. In the preamble, this draft law was passed by clearly mentioning the report given by the expert committee on the subject and the data based on various researches, he added.

It is possible to play knowing who and how one is playing while participating in person (offline). “But the law was enacted to ban online games on the grounds that when played online, there are chances for cheating and money laundering as the game is played based on a (computer) programme written by the creator of the game. Therefore, this draft law is subject to the aforementioned Article 34 of the Constitution,” the minister said.

In October, the Tamil Nadu government promulgated an ordinance to prohibit online gambling and regulate online games in the state and said an online gaming authority will be established to exercise powers conferred by this ordinance.

The Gazette notification issued by the government on October 3 and the ordinance promulgated by Governor Ravi on October 1, said the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Online Gambling and Regulation of Online Games Ordinance, 2022, will come into force on the date notified by the government.

It said online games and gambling ruined families, led to suicides, caused gaming addiction affecting public health, disturbing social order and prejudices the maintenance of public order.