On 20th November, the state government passed an ordinance banning online real money gaming in the state of Tamil Nadu. This means that wagering or betting, including rummy or poker, are now punishable by imprisonment of 2 years and a fine of up to ₹10,000, or both.
The AIADMK government, led by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, has cited young people being cheated and the rise in the number of suicides due to losing money while wagering online as the reason for the ban. The chief amendments have been brought in by updating the colonial-era Tamil Nadu Gaming Act, 1930, to include cyber cafes and online fund transfers for online betting, alongside changes to the Chennai City Police Act, 1888, and Tamil Nadu District Police Act, 1859.
Also Read: The Poker and Games Shutdown
The Tamil Nadu Gaming and Police Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, makes the following changes:
No person shall wager or bet in cyberspace using computers, computer systems, networks, or resources, or any communication device used for gaming, or any other gaming instruments, “by playing poker, rummy or any other game”. This can be punishable with imprisonment of up to 2 years and a fine of up to ₹10,000 or both. The ordinance exempts games of skill from this provision.
Include cyber cafes as common gaming houses
The amendment has added cyber cafes as common gaming houses where gaming or gambling activities can take place. It explicitly mentions that gaming “does not include lottery, but includes wagering or betting in person or in cyberspace”.
- The Act makes owning, managing, or funding of a space used for gaming punishable by imprisonment of up to five years and fine of up to ₹5,000. Such spaces now include cyber cafes as well, per the ordinance.
- Evidence of common gaming house: Any electronic records, computers, computer system, network, resource or any communications device can be used as evidence that a common gaming house was being run. In the earlier Act, this was limited to any cards, dice, gaming table or cloth, board, etc.
- Penalty for opening a common gaming house has been increased from ₹500 and imprisonment of 3 months to ₹10,000 and 2 years respectively.
Wagering or betting includes collection of bets or receiving prizes via electronic transfers.
Gaming instruments includes computers
Gaming instruments includes computers, and computer networks, system, resources or any communication device used for gaming; any document or electronic record used to register or record evidence of gaming and the proceeds or gaming; and any prize money including via electronic funds.
Warrant to enter a common gaming house for arrest and seizure
Earlier such a warrant could be issued by a Judicial Magistrate nor ranked below second class, or any Police Officer not below the rank of a Deputy Superintendent of Police. The amendment shifts this power solely to the police: to a police officer not ranked below DSP or Assistant Commissioner of Police. Penalty for being found gaming or simply being present in the gaming house: Increased from fine of ₹200 and jail term of 1 month maximum to ₹5,000 and jail term of 6 months
Make company executives liable
If an offence under the Act is committed by a company, every person that was in-charge of company business shall be deemed guilty and liable for punishment.
The original act exempted games of skill from any punitive damages and also did not consider games of skill as online betting. This exemption has now been exempted to games of skill played online, which now include (as per jurisprudence in high courts) fantasy gaming services. This could possibly mean that investing real-money into fantasy teams on Dream11, MyCircle11, and other similar services, may not fall under this ordinance and can continue to be offered in the state.