Karnataka Online Gaming Ban: FICCI urges state govt to reconsider law

Industry body FICCI on Tuesday urged the Karnataka government to revisit legislation which banned all formats of online games involving monetary stakes, stating that a prohibition on games of skill is unconstitutional and would lead to massive loss of revenue. 

FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry) is a non-governmental trade association and advocacy group based in India.

The Karnataka legislative assembly last month passed the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Bill, 1963. The bill sought to prohibit gambling in the state, including online gambling, with maximum imprisonment of three years and penalty up to Rs 1 lakh. 

“We believe that a prohibition on games of skill apart from being unconstitutional will also lead to massive loss of revenue and jobs and opportunities for users to develop their skills,” the chamber said in a statement. 

It added that if the bill bans online skill games, the law-abiding Indian companies will exit the market, and users will turn to harmful offshore and betting apps. 

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There are other big offshore and Indian gambling players which are currently offering their services in Karnataka despite being illegal, it claimed. 

Some of them are advertising heavily, and the users have no way of discerning between legitimate and non-legitimate operators as all self-regulated / certified players would not be operating, it added. 

“We hope that the government will relook at the bill to conform to the Supreme Court”s jurisprudence and issue a final notification after examining suggestions and objections from stakeholders, opinions,” the chamber said. 

It further said the move by the Karnataka government is a setback to the state”s reputation of being a tech-hub and startup capital. 

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Meanwhile, Governor Thawar Chand Gehlot recently approved the aforementioned act. The enactment passed by the legislature last month imposes maximum imprisonment of three years and a penalty up to Rs 1 lakh for those indulging in online gaming or betting in the state. The law came into force on date of publication in the official gazette i.e., 5 October 2021.

Various other organisations FIFS, TORF and AIGF have expressed concerns over the depredations and ramifications of this bill earlier.

According to a study conducted by Startup Business Academy, Bengaluru’s image as a start-up hub will be severely dented if Karnataka implements a ban on online gaming for stakes.