India: Telangana rethinks online gambling ban

The state of Telangana banned gambling in 2017.
The state of Telangana banned gambling in 2017.

Authorities think the gaming industry could contribute to the state’s economy and could be an important source of employment.

India.- The state of Telangana is rethinking its 2017 ban on all forms of gambling in 2017. It introduced the ban after reports of gambling addiction leading to suicides and bankruptcy but has found it led to players being targeted by illegal offshore sites outside of government control.

Realising the ban may be ineffective, authorities are now also concerned about missed potential tax revenue.

Speaking at the recent All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) Knowledge Series Forum, Telangana’s chief secretary for IT, electronics and communications, Jayesh Ranjan, said he has drafted a bill to change the situation and is waiting for the right time to bring it to the Cabinet.

According to Asian Gaming Brief, Ranjan said he was confident of success and working hard to influence those who pushed for the ban in the first place. He said the original ban was introduced as an easy option compared to avoid having to regulate.

Telangana aims to set up a Gaming Commission, which would be made up of the government, industry associations, retired judges, police and businesses, to regulate gaming.

Ranjan said: “We know employment opportunities in gaming companies are much more versatile, so even if you don’t have much of a formal education, you still can learn a few applications software, you can find respectable employment.”

The forum also heard from government officials in Meghalaya state, one of the poorest in the country, which recently enacted a gambling law to boost its economy. The northern state, which is largely dependent on agriculture and tourism, has begun to regulate all forms of gaming, both online and land. This also includes fantasy sports and games of chance and games of skill.

Other Indian states have seen decisions to ban gaming overturned. In February, the Karnataka state government‘s decision to ban all forms of gambling in the state was overturned by the Karnataka High Court.

Last September, the Kerala High Court rejected the government’s attempt to ban online rummy, arguing that it was a skill-based game and therefore protected by the Indian Constitution. 

A similar ban issued by the government of Tamil Nadu was rejected by the Madras High Court. Online operators had argued that since 1968 the Supreme Court has made it clear that rummy is a game of skill and not a game of chance, and therefore it cannot be banned.

AIGF calls for robust policy framework for online gaming

As online gaming continues to rocket in India, the All India Game Federation (AIGF) remains concerned about the lack of gaming regulation. The AIGF says e-sports and video games will play a major role in the Indian economy, citing a study predicting that the Indian gaming market will reach between $6bn to $7bn by 2025 up from the current $1.8bn.

PK Mishra, president of All India Gaming Federation, told News9: “India has more than 200 million e-gamers playing across more than 200 platforms. E-sports and e-gaming, under the umbrella of digital economy growth, are going to play an important role in the Indian economy.

“To encourage this, the e-gaming industry needs robust policy frameworks and digital infrastructure to foray towards being a global leader.”

In this article:
gambling GAMBLING REGULATION online gambling