The Previous Blog of the series discussed Land Based Gaming- the prevalent laws and the categorization of games in the Indian Gaming Market. This blog shall discuss the Judicial Pronouncements and the Way Forward in Land Based Gaming.
The Supreme Court in All Kerala Online Lottery Dealers Associations v. State of Kerala, [(2016) 2 SCC 161] had diverted from its earlier reasoning in BR Enterprises v. State of Uttar Pradesh [AIR 1999 SC 1867] to settle that paper-based lotteries and online lotteries fell in a whole different class and hence allowing any State to prohibit either online lotteries or paper-based lotteries would not amount to infringement of any provisions of Section 5 of the Lotteries Act, 1998.
In Dr. K R Lakshmanan v. State of Tamil Nadu and Anr., [AIR 1996 SC 1153], the Supreme Court in another significant ruling settled that “betting on horse racing is a game of skill, exempt from the prohibitions under most gaming enactments“.
The Supreme Court while deciding over the classification of prize competitions in the case of RMD Chamarbaugwala v. Union of India, [AIR 1957 SC 628] held that “the PCA would only apply to prize competitions that were of a gambling nature. However, because the types of games covered under the PCA (e.g., crossword prize competitions) appear to be games of skill and not gambling, there is an anomaly in the types of games covered by the PCA“.
In State of Andhra Pradesh v. K. Satyanarayana and Others, [AIR 1968 SC 825], the issue before the Supreme Court was about the nature of the game of rummy. The Supreme Court while concluding that rummy is apparently a game of skill and not a game of chance observed that “it requires certain amount of skill because the fall of the cards has to be memorized and the building up of rummy requires considerable skill in holding and discarding cards“.
The Karnataka High Court in R Shankar Creation Association v. State of Karnataka, [2012 SCC Kar 8195] categorized inter alia carom, chess, darts and poker as games of skill. Conversely, the Gujarat High Court in Dominance Games Pvt. Ltd. v. State of Gujarat [(2018) 1 RCR (Cri) 629] made an observation that since the game of poker has its roots in the game of Teenpatti which is a game of chance and betting or wagering in poker is unavoidable; playing poker would amount to gambling under Gujarat Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887.
The Jalpaiguri Circuit Bench of the Calcutta High Court in its 2019 order in Indian Poker Association and Anr. v. State of West Bengal & Ors., [W. P. No. 13728 (W) OF 2015] held that “provisions of the West Bengal Gambling and Prize Competitions Act, 1957 and particularly the definition of “gaming or gambling” set out under Section 2 (1) (b) therein, state that Poker is not included either in gaming or gambling and, therefore, if any person plays such game without indulging in any other act, which could amount to an offence, playing such game does not attract police interference“.
THE WAY FORWARD
India being such a vast and diverse country with States having an upper hand in terms of legislative powers for regulating gaming/gambling, it is an undisputed fact that to craft a central uniform legislation would certainly be an arduous task.
As long as there remains an absence of cohesive legislation or common ground on the subject concerned, contradictory interpretations by various High Courts resulting into higher ambiguity, and the development of a comprehensive legal framework still at the stage of infancy, every stakeholder would be liable to adhere to the relevant statutes and judicial promulgation binding in the respective State or Territory of his/her operation.
The menace of gambling in various forms of gaming has been worsened in recent times, thanks to the internet in addition to the escalating COVID-19 situation that compelled people to look for easier ways of making money to satisfy their social as well as financial needs.
The Gaming Industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry in India. Despite this fact, there exists no central legal framework in India to regulate this booming sector and resolve the biases looming around gaming activities.
Several bodies in the sector including the All India Gaming Federation, The Rummy Federation, and the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports have already started framing self-regulation codes for their marketing and advertisement activities.
It is high time for the judiciary and the Parliament along with various State Legislatures to come to a common table with a view to formulate an exhaustive framework with the lucid categorization of numerous games besides clarifying the legality of such games in the different States of the Country.
Team AMLEGALS assisted by Mr. Saurin Thakkar (Intern)
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