Gambling is an activity that dates back to the Palaeolithic period, and over time, has evolved to be more than a recreational activity. While there existed ambiguity and vagueness surrounding gambling legislation in India, the Public Gambling Act of 1867 declared that practically all forms of gambling are illegal in the country. But ofcourse, the act is from 1867, and gambling is a state subject in India, meaning states have the power to allow or disallow or partially allow, any/all forms of gambling.
All of this though, has not stopped the growth of the gambling sector, and as of 2020, the gambling industry in India accounted for over 15% of the world’s online gambling traffic. Nearly 80% of the nation’s population participates in gambling at least once a year. As gambling has gained traction in India, states have started to clamp down on them. Thus came forth the Karnataka Police (Amendment) Act, 2021.
Soon after, an FIR had been registered (under the amended law) against Dream11 CEO and co-founder Harsh Jain for running a gaming house as defined in the new law. However, he was granted relief against any coercive action.
A few months down the line, and now, the Karnataka High Court has given a Valentine’s Day gift to skill-based gaming firms and players by striking down the provisions of the law, which sought to prohibit and criminalize betting on and playing games of skill, even if they were online. It stated that the provisions were unconstitutional.
Now, you can once again play in various fantasy sports tournaments and have a chance to earn handsome (monetary) rewards. This development is also likely to bring relief for platforms such as Dream11, Mobile Premier League, Games24x7 (RummyCircle, My11Circle), and Ace2Three, which had to suspend operations in the state after the law was passed.
When the law was passed, it was challenged by several, who petitioned the court. The petitioners included skill gaming industry body All India Gaming Federation (AIGF), self-regulatory fantasy sports industry body Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS), Junglee Games, Gameskraft and Pacific Games.
According to the law, all forms of wagering or betting, including in the form of tokens valued in terms of money paid before or after issue of it, or electronic means and virtual currency, electronic transfer of funds in connection with any game of chance, were classified as gambling.
After hearing from the petitioners, the Karnataka High Court had reserved its judgement on December 22.
“The writ petitions succeed. The provisions are ultra vires of the Constitution and struck down,” the bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Krishna S Dixit stated.
“The consequences of striking down the provisions shall follow. However, nothing in this judgement shall be construed to prevent appropriate legislation from being brought about, concerning the subject of betting and gambling in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution,” the bench clarified.